Tesla quietly trying to juice sales, without traditional ads

Tesla tries another round of referrals, and Chinese customers can get no-interest loans.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is fond of saying the EV-maker is constrained by supply and not demand, and so doesn't need to produce huge ad campaigns or Super Bowl commercials. Maybe, maybe not. What we do know is that Tesla is not above taking steps to try and drive up interest in the brand.

Whether it's through the inclusion of headline-grabbing features like falcon-wing doors on its new Model X, humorous pop-culture references in its interfaces – stereo volume that goes to eleven and ludicrous mode, for example – or special incentive programs, the company recognizes the need to attract attention to itself and build its base. Not only does it need to keep generating a moderate queue for its high-end products, but it also needs to build a large audience in preparation for its lower-cost Model 3.

Tesla's referral program has just been renewed for a third time.

Tesla's referral program is a prime example of how it's been keeping the Model S metal moving. The program has just been renewed for a third time, this time with some structural changes and new rewards. Now, according to the Tesla website, when referred buyers order a Model S with delivery before April 15, they receive an $1,200 credit towards home-charging installation. Unlike past iterations, the program limits these referrals to just three. For each of those, owners are given an entry for a prize drawing.

This time around, the lucky winner gets a free Model X P90D with ludicrous mode, along with a tour for four of the SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, including travel and accommodations. Five other referrers will also receive the same SpaceX tour deal.

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Along with this referral program renewal, Tesla has also taken steps to help boost its business in China with what it's calling a "New Years gift." The Chinese version of its website tells potential buyers that, for a limited time, they might be eligible for a no-interest loan from its financing partners in the region, China Merchant Bank, if they order specific models. Until March 31st, spend your renminbi on a new Model S 90D, or P90D, and you get save as much as 35,000 yuan ($5,370.20 at today's rates) on borrowing costs.

Being the unique sort of company it is – the first seemingly-viable US automaker to start up in many decades, one with an electric drivetrain and direct sales model, to boot – Tesla still gets a lot of attention, even without resorting to traditional commercials. One of the latest examples of free media coverage can be seen in the video above, that brings us into the outfit's Fremont factory, where we can watch its tireless robots and staff fill orders for its two current models.

There's no doubt the automaker will benefit from this sort of scrutiny for some time. Eventually though, possibly after the Model 3 is in production and faces real rivalry in the market, it may have to go the route of its competitors and make its case to the masses that might still be unaware of existence or advantages. On Tesla's last quarterly earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said he was open to the idea. "In the long term, I think I could see us doing advertising where that advertising is interesting, entertaining, and people don't regret seeing it," he said. In the meantime, Tesla's story, full of high drama and flashy fast cars, along with targeted incentives, should attract enough attention to keep things moving along nicely.

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