Tesla hires ex-Burberry exec Ganesh Srivats to lead North American sales

Article by Andrew Christian, on July 14, 2015

To enhance Tesla Motors’ reputation for automotive luxury, the company has hired Ganesh Srivats to be its vice president for North American sales. Srivats, who used to be Burberry’s senior vice president for retail in the Americas, is tasked to bring the brand to a global market. He will help make the brand a part of the premium lifestyle experience as it aligns with a high-tech reputation, comparable to the marketing campaigns of Ferrari, BMW, and Porsche.

In an interview, Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said that the move makes sense because Tesla is “not an automobile company, it’s a luxury company.” Burberry is popular around the world for its digital prowess as well as its heritage plaid cashmere scarf and trench coats.

Former Burberry Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Angela Ahrendts was hired by Apple Inc. as head of its retail operations in 2013. From Srivats’ LinkedIn profile, we learned that beginning in 2009, he was with Burberry in various strategy and retail positions.

The position that he takes with Tesla is newly filled. Last March, Tesla said that Jerome Guillen, its vice president of global sales and service, was being reassigned to a post that centered on delivery and long-term customer care.

The brand planned to hire new executives to oversee the sales operations by region. The automaker is planning to present its Model X SUV late in this quarter and intends to achieve sales of 55,000 units around the world this year.

In the first six months of 2015, Tesla hit 40% of the target with 21,552 units sold. The company has no dealerships and conducts sales directly with customers through stores and galleries. It doesn’t spend for conventional advertising and depends heavily on word-of-mouth and free media. It certainly helps that many of its buyers are tech-savvy early adopters.

Milton Padraza, chief executive officer of the Luxury Institute, said that what Srivats brings to Tesla is a “client-centric approach to doing business.” He stated that the emphasis will be on sales as “long-term relationships” and not mere transactions. He explains that Burberry is the “master” when it comes to relationships with clients.

Burberry embraced digital innovation very early on. It held live-streaming runway shows and had its launch on Periscope. Ken Harris, managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group in Chicago, said that in the past half-decade, Burberry had gone through a makeover and has shifted from being to haute couture as it sheds its conservative high-end fashion image.

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