As Tesla sends its first batch of Model 3s out into the wild, some people believe we are entering a new age for the automobile industry: the true advent of the affordable, autonomous, all-electric car.
Minnesotan John Marino is one such person, and he wants to go along for the ride.
He test-drove a Tesla for the first time in 2013, and has been a fan ever since, but nothing in his professional history drew him toward the brand or even toward cars in general. But seeing how consumers have reacted to Elon Musk’s sleekly designed, silently humming technical wonder has inspired the entrepreneur.
“The overwhelming reception has sold me,” Marino says.
Seeing that no one else was doing so, he decided to start an all-Tesla car rental service. In March of this year, he launched TREVLS, which now operates out of RBC Plaza in Downtown Minneapolis, with vehicles stored at nearby Hotel Ivy.
TREVLS is different from the typical auto rental company, and not only because it offers one type of car exclusively. Transactions are completed digitally, with no personal interaction. You go to the website, view availability in real-time, and order your rental, which is delivered to you anywhere in the metro area, 24/7. That means no counters, no lines, no rep hassling you for an upsell.
You can rent a Model S (luxury sedan) for $195-$235/day, or a Model X (crossover) for $350/day. TREVLS has a used car dealer license and is able to buy the vehicles wholesale through dealerships across the country.
It’s a fairly modest operation at this point – Marino has one full-time employee and another part-timer locally, helping with deliveries – but it figures to grow fast, and won’t be confined to the Twin Cities. In April TREVLS signed a contract with employee engagement company BI Worldwide, and will expand into 16 new markets, starting this year.
It’s not a revolutionary business concept, but so far it’s working, as Marino’s current inventory is constantly in short supply and that’s not likely to change soon given the ravenous demand for Teslas across America.
But will his model stay afloat after the novelty wears off? He acknowledges that most current customers are in it for the experience, often using it as an opportunity to test-drive. What happens when the “new car scent” wears off, so to speak?
“Tesla has about 200,000 cars now,” Marino explains. “With Model 3 they will put out 400-500,000 cars annually. That’s 1.5 million Tesla drivers on the road over the next three years. They will want to stay in a Tesla when they travel. If they get in a car accident, they’ll want one for insurance purposes. They’ll want one when they travel.”
“I look at it as an alternative to the everyday car rental option. The industry is changing on the whole.”