Tesla's Musk Channels Jobs Using Teaser for 'Something Else'

Doesn't Use Traditional Advertising to Boost Demand

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Tesla's Elon Musk has channeled Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs by sending out a teaser message on Twitter about a mysterious unveiling on Oct. 9. Shares in the company jumped.

The photo showed a Tesla car peeking from behind a garage door with a stylized D on it. The Tesla Motors CEO said it was "about time to unveil the D and something else," echoing the late Jobs's trademark line when revealing products: "one more thing."

Mr. Musk's post was retweeted more than 10,000 times and favorited more than 7,500 times. A flurry of blogs have stoked speculation about what the billionaire might reveal at the event next Thursday: an all-wheel-drive Model S, a self-driving Model S, an all-new vehicle, even a diesel powertrain.

The tweet echoes how Apple, under Mr. Jobs and since, has used cryptic messaging to tantalize consumers and the media about a coming announcement. For the Sept. 9 event to unveil the iPhone 6, the invitation sent in August said only "Wish we could say more." Speculation on the internet was rampant.

After revealing the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, CEO Tim Cook said he had "one more thing" to announce, which turned out to be the Apple Watch.

"Tesla is like Apple in that it has a narrow product range and now it's focusing on how to get attention," said Larry Dominique, executive VP for industry solutions at TrueCar Inc. "Tesla doesn't do billboards or television ads. It doesn't need traditional advertising to drum up demand."

The risk of building suspense using a teaser, of course, is that speculation could outstrip what Tesla ultimately delivers.

Social media
While Tesla doesn't buy TV spots, Tesla's digital strategy and Mr. Musk's social-media presence -- he has more than 1 million followers -- has "created a lot of buzz among people that would not have otherwise bought the vehicle," said Alan Baum, an independent auto analyst at Baum & Associates.

An unveiling is most likely to be a variant of the Model S, he and Mr. Dominique said. Brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Acura feature driver-assist tools like adaptive cruise control. The Model S initially did not include some high-tech safety features such as lane-keep assist.

"The reality is that these technologies are becoming a cost of entry for high-end cars," Mr. Dominique said. "Today, Tesla doesn't have those. But they're smart people who are going to have to make sure they're a leader in these things, not a follower."

~ Bloomberg News ~

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