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Tesla Motors will give you $1,000 for a referral, but there's a catch

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(Read caption) In a photo from Tuesday, April 7, 2015 in Detroit, a Tesla Model S 70D is seen during a test drive. Tesla Motors is offering people $1,000 for referring someone to buy a Tesla, but the deal only applies if you already own a Tesla vehicle.

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Across much of America, temperatures are soaring, but within a few weeks, the mercury will begin to fall. As it does, dealerships will begin making room for 2016 models and closely eyeing their yearly sales goals.

That often results in good deals for shoppers, but according to Auto News, Tesla is taking things one step further: for the next three months, the start-up automaker will offer deals to buyers' friends, too.

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It's all part of a word-of-mouth referral program dreamed up by Tesla'smarketing team and its CEO, Elon Musk. Between now and the end of October, any customer who purchases a Tesla Model S online using a link from a friend will earn a $1,000 discount from the automaker -- and the friend will earn a $1,000 credit that can be used toward service, another vehicle, or Tesla swag. (The catch is, of course, that the friend needs to own a Tesla, too.)

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What's more, the friends with the most referrals at the end of the promotion period will be eligible for special prizes. Those include a tour of the "gigafactory" Tesla is building outside Reno, Nevada, and a $25,000 discount on a very special "Founder Series" edition of the new Tesla Model X crossover, arriving later this year.

Why is Tesla doing this? Musk describes it as an "experiment". He says that Tesla currently spends about $2,000 to sell a car through one of the company's showrooms, once labor, rent, and other elements are factored in. So, the referral program won't cost the automaker any more than it's already spending, and as lagniappe, it's likely to encourage brand loyalty.

The promo is also a subtle jab at states that have curtailed Tesla's sales and marketing efforts -- states like, say, Texas. Franchise laws prohibit Tesla from selling directly to consumers, but as Musk points out, there's no law that prohibits referrals.