Just days after announcing that it would close most of its stores, Tesla said late Sunday that it had decided to keep “significantly more stores open” than previously announced. The electric-car maker also said it would raise most of its vehicle prices about 3 percent worldwide.
The flip-flop on the fate of the sleek stores is the latest move by the upstart company that for a time was the most highly valued American car company, but which is now facing financial pressures.
In the last three months of 2018, Tesla opened 27 sales and service locations to keep up with rising demand for its mass-market electric car, the Model 3. Over all, the company had more than 100 showrooms and stores in the United States, and others overseas.
The latest move came after Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, announced on Feb. 28 that the company would move to an online-only sales policy. He said the change would reap savings from store closings that would help Tesla to make a profit on a new entry-level Model 3 priced at $35,000. Previously, the least expensive Model 3 cost $43,000 before tax incentives.
In a recent email to employees, Mr. Musk said 78 percent of Model 3 orders were already placed online. And on Sunday night, while announcing the reversal of store closings, Tesla reaffirmed the online-sales model. It said on its company blog that the stores would serve as a way to introduce potential buyers to Tesla vehicles, provide a test drive on request, and show how to make a purchase.
“Stores will also carry a small number of cars in inventory for customers who wish to drive away with a Tesla immediately,” the blog post added.
Tesla has been in retreat in recent months, scrambling to cut costs in order to shore up flagging investor confidence in the company and Mr. Musk. Along with layoffs of 7 percent of its work force in January, the news of store closings appeared to underline the challenges for a newcomer breaking into an old-line manufacturing industry. After recently reporting profits, the company now expects a loss in the first quarter.
Mr. Musk has struggled to make a few thousand cars in a week — a feat that established automakers can do in a day.
In its latest announcement, Tesla said it had already closed 10 percent of its locations. These stores did not have “natural foot traffic,” it said, though some will be reopened with a smaller staff. The company said that another 20 percent of its stores were under review for potential closing in the coming months.
The price increases, it said, are necessary to make up for the loss of savings that was anticipated from the store closings. The $35,000 version of the Model 3, the carmaker’s lowest-price model, will not be affected by the increases. Prices will increase for the higher-end Model X and Model S — models on which Tesla only recently had been dropping prices — as well as for more expensive versions of the Model 3.
The company said owners would have a week to place orders at current prices.
Tesla shares were up 1.6 percent in afternoon trading on Monday but are down about 10 percent since Mr. Musk’s announcement about the store closings and online-only sales.