By on July 15, 2015

Tesla Store

We have opined in these pages before about how for every Tesla sold in America, there are two or three glowing stories written about the electric automaker. There are days when over 50 percent of the pieces on auto industry news feeds are about Tesla, which is not bad for a company capturing 0.1 percent of the U.S. automobile market. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is truly a marketing and public relations genius.

Given that, it is fascinating when a negative story surfaces about Tesla’s way of doing business and the slobbering media is strangely silent. 

A customer study conducted by research firm Pied Piper Management Company revealed that Tesla dealers are dead last in converting prospects into buyers. Labeling Tesla sales representatives as “museum curators,” PPMC calls Tesla out for not asking questions about prospects’ driving habits and how they plan to use their new vehicle, as well as their inability to ask for the sale. PPMC noted that the fact that many Tesla outlets are not able to offer test drives, which also contributed to the poor ranking.

2015 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index

Said PPMC chief Fran O’Hagan:

“Dealerships that sell proactively — think of them as doing everything they can to be helpful to a car-shopper — not only end up selling a lot more vehicles, they also end up with happy shoppers and customers. On the other hand, customers don’t usually mind the ‘museum curator’ dealerships, with courteous salespeople who answer questions but do nothing to proactively sell. The difference is that the ‘museum curator’ dealerships end up much less successful; selling fewer vehicles … “

Say what you want about the current franchised dealer system, but what is wrong with showing interest in the customer, offering a demo drive and asking for the sale? It is not happening at Tesla outlets.

Mercedes-Benz backed up their up recent winning of the J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index award by topping the PPMC survey. I can tell you from firsthand experience that Mercedes-Benz has tirelessly worked the past four years to change the culture of their dealerships’ sales operations and the top ranking shows their efforts are paying off.

The PPMC survey supports what we wrote in 2013: If Tesla wants to succeed in America they need to drop their direct sales strategy and join the traditional franchised dealer network by partnering with an established brand. If not, and their government subsidies dry up, Tesla will be a goner.

(As an aside, it is nice to see PPMC emerge as a potential competitor to long-time customer satisfaction surveying firm J.D. Power and Associates, a company despised by automakers. They complain that J.D. Power is a monopoly and that they charge outrageous fees to advertise winning an award. The sheer number of J.D. Power surveys about the automobile buying and ownership experience is so high that I expect to see this headline someday, “Jeep Wins J.D. Power Award For Customer Satisfaction For Windshield Wiper Stalk Operation During The First 47 Days Of Ownership.”)

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95 Comments on “Tesla Dead Last in Dealer Experience, First in PR...”


  • avatar

    I’ve been to TESLA 6 times.

    Once to test drive the P85.
    Once to test drive the P85D.
    Once to get a sneak peak at the Model X.

    The TESLA nearest me was Roosevelt Field mall. Roosevelt Field Mall is a “posh” mall in Westbury where the rich people shop and the plebeians hang-around to feel rich. The Tourneau store next door to Tesla was robbed via smash&grab and TESLA’s buyers swore they wouldn’t come back. Too many plebeians making the wealthy feel unsafe (just like that shooting at the Short Hills Mall near the other Tesla dealership in New Jersey).

    So anyway…it occured to me that their strategy has its benefits: setting up in posh malls to meet wealthy people who’d have otherwise bought a Mercedes or Bentley – while simultaneously showing their product to mindless American materialistic consumers…

    Access to the mall’s powergrid – since they set up superchargers in the parking lots of Short Hills mall, Roosevelt Field mall and White Plains mall…

    But the downsides are: too many poor people who want to see the Model S on their way between buying sneakers and baby clothes…

    The Tesla stores may also be located in places without easy access to highways for test drives.

    They moved the Roosevelt Field store to Syosset. I visited Syosset to return a P85D I borrowed (some of you saw my crappy little video clip last Christmas (which has earned very well by the way). When I went there, IT WAS BEHIND A DAMN TRUCK STOP and the store looked like a “powerplant”. I’m thinking: this is no way to sell this car… they shoulda stayed at Roosevelt Field Mall!!!

    (You can see the Syosset store in Google Maps streetview)

    Their personal relations are great and the salesguys quickly welcome you, sit down with their ipads and talk with you about the product – just like an Apple store (which I’m 100% sure they copied the model of).

    The problem is: how can you sell a P85D in a dealer-network when it doesn’t make sense for most buyers and is a harder sell than a regular I.C.E. car?

    When I test drove the Fisker Karma, I’d gone to the Jaguar dealer about leasing an XJ-L. They didn’t even attempt to show me or tell me about the Karma because they knew it’s easier to sell a Jaguar.

    There’s a massive conflict of interest. If I was a dealer, I’d sell you a Malibu long before I’d sell you a Volt simply because my agenda is to get you into what I feel makes more sense for you and to me:

    Don’t buy this stupid BMW 5/ Infiniti/E-class me-too car…get this HELLCAT!!!

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Lol, Roosevelt Field Mall is hardly posh, just from the greasy low quality selection at the food court alone.

      • 0 avatar

        #1 Westbury is a WEALTHY community. Old Westbury is even wealthier.

        #2 they are building a NEIMAN MARCUS as I’m typing this.

        #3 The average home in the area exceeds $600,000 (check Zillow and you’ll see).

        #4 The stores in tha mall are high-end and sell expensive products that they don’t/can’t sell in Green Acres mall or even Massapequa.

        #5 there’s an APPLE STORE so it must be wealthy!!!

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          People come from all over to go to Roosevelt Field Mall. When I lived in Rosedale we used to drive out there all the time.

          I’m in Charlotte now and one of our malls has an Apple store, and while it doesn’t have a Neiman Marcus it’s definitely more upscale than Green Acres Mall. A store there just got robbed this weekend.

        • 0 avatar
          fincar1

          Oh, come on…there’s an Apple store in the Tacoma mall for cryin’ out loud….

        • 0 avatar
          tekdemon

          Roosevelt field is the mall where all the teenagers on the island go and it has the absolutely most worn out and disgusting movie theater probably in the entire northeast there where half the theater smells like dried urine and the floors are coated in a sticky layer of God knows what. It is NOT a posh mall and your claim that the area is posh is very dubious. Even if houses were $600k on average around the mall (which they are most definitely not) it would not make it a posh community when you consider that we are talking about the suburbs around NYC. And this has been the case for a loooong time, I remember kids from NYC projects talking at school about heading out there on the weekends when I was younger and it’s not any different now. The only nice thing at the mall is probably Ruth’s Chris but frankly if you really want steak the Great Neck/Manhasset area has Peter Luger’s as well as several other nice steak joints.

          If you want to go to an actually posh mall go to Americana Manhasset and go pay full price at the luxury boutiques there, while sipping on overpriced drinks from the italian restaurant and snack shop there. Though of course there is still an Apple store and even a J Crew. There’s a parking lot full of Ferraris, Bentleys, and Porsches as well.

          You’re seriously the only person I’ve ever heard refer to Roosevelt Field as posh and while there may be a somewhat decent watch store in it the fact that it got robbed is pretty telling. Look at the jewelers in the mall and you’ll quickly realized that they only sell low end stuff, especially the diamonds sold there-it’s all low grade junk most with dubious gradings.

    • 0 avatar
      fatalexception04

      Actually Roosevelt Field Mall is in Garden City, which in itself is a higher class neighborhood, and if they moved to Franklin Avenue they would get more customers.

      Westbury is far from being a wealthy neighborhood. Unless you consider poor schools and homes that are not on average in the sixes wealthy.

      Also Roosevelt Field isn’t where the rich shop, its more for the middle class. A smash and grab is not deterring anyone from going there.

      The truly rich on Long Island shop at the Americana in Manhasset, where you will find actual upscale brands. A store there would be the best location since it can cater to the north shore neighborhoods and just down the block from Aston Martin and Porsche nearby.

      The other location they can open where again the truly rich shop would be in the Hamptons, but traffic flow slows greatly in the off months.

      • 0 avatar

        Aston Martin???

        Down Glen Cove is LAMBORGHINI LONG ISLAND, BENTLEY and ROLLS ROYCE.

        Westbury IS a wealthy neighborhood.

        Massapequa is too, but Westbuy has more money and more inhabitants.

        Just look up the property values.

        • 0 avatar
          fatalexception04

          Aston Martin is on Northern Blvd. just down the block from the Americana. Porsche is nearby in Roslyn Heights. Lmbo, Bentley, and Rolls can be found heading down the LIE, with some being near the Home Depot in Jericho and the others a little further out.

          Westbury is a middle class neighborhood bordered by Carle Place to the west and extends to the Wantagh Parkway. Their schools have gang and drugs problems, have been failing for years, and the town of Westbury iteslf also encompasses New Cassell. A simple MLS search will reveal plenty of homes in the low two’s. Westbury is not a wealthy neighboorhood by any means. They are more comparable to Mineola, Carle Place, New Hyde Park in terms of wealth. These are more or less middle class communities. Now granted those that come from the outer NYC boroughs (those that tend to come to Roosevelt Field to shop) may view this as wealthy towns, they are not when consider by those that live here.

          Old Westbury is not serviced by Westbury schools and is a much more upscale community. Garden City, Roslyn, East Hills, Locust Valley, Great Neck, Lattingtown, Brookville, Muttowntown. Those are some of the actual weatlhy towns on Long Island in Nassau County.

          Massapequa is a middle class community along with its neighbor Seaford.

        • 0 avatar
          Rod Panhard

          With all due respect, one should not necessarily equate property values with wealth when you’re talking about the NYC metro area. I reside in a town where the average home price is now $550k, and the average property tax bill is $15k. Yet, we have two Title One elementary schools, two Title One middle schools, and a Title One high school in our school district. Or another way of stating it, both of our middle schools and our high school are Title One, while 2 out of 5 of our elementary schools are Title 1.

          I know, that doesn’t seem to make sense. But that’s how it is where I live, which is about <5 miles as the crow flies from my nearest Tesla/Apple/Jimmy Cho/Neiman Marcus/Bloomingdale's etc. at the Maul @ Short Hills.

          • 0 avatar
            fatalexception04

            bigtruck…like I wrote earlier, Tesla needs to move to the more upscale neighborhoods to get more customers. Being out of sight in Syosset won’t work and gawkers at the mall like myself aren’t going to move cars either.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t think you should equate the wealth of an area with the wealth of its schools.

            There are many people who move to areas where they can avoid taxes because they don’t have kids and don’t want to pay taxes for the schools.

            YET they are RICH.

          • 0 avatar
            fatalexception04

            But don’t confuse being rich with wealth. There is a difference too.

            I will say the times I was at the Tesla store I wish they had a location at the mall to go on a test drive. Like a store worker can text or call a guy to prep a car.

            The old Source Mall, which is in Westbury, not Garden City like Roosevelt, would be a perfect location to send people for test drives.

          • 0 avatar

            The Tesla at Roosevelt Field mall, in my opinion was a good, high-visibility location with a good test-driving area: the Meadowprook Parkway.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      I grew up just outside of Westbury on Long Island and while I could describe Roosevelt Field in a varity of ways “Posh” is not one of them. It’s certainly not a haven for rich folks. Now if they were smart they would have put the dealership in Garden City proper.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      And here I set, impressed, that there is such a thing as an “upscale” mall. Sure, there’s a massive disparity between the oldest poorly kept malls, and the newest big money high rent malls, but upscale goes against the whole idea of a mall to me.

      • 0 avatar
        VenomV12

        @Hummer

        You need to check out the Somerset Collection in Troy Michigan, it is very very upscale. There are many upscale malls throughout the country in fact.

    • 0 avatar
      teslatexas 42

      This article turned logic on its head. “Dead last,” as described, sounded to me like the opposite. Tesla should not “sell” its car. They need customers like me, techies with money who are already sold on the car before walking into the showroom. And there are obviously plenty of people like me. I needed only a few minutes with a showroom representative, who then took me to a P85D parked in the Mall garage. Ten minutes behind the wheel was enough. Sold. What was wrong with that “Dealer Experience?” They made a $125,000 sale. Every other “deal” I have made with ordinary dealers left me with a bad taste in my mouth—including GM cars, BMWs, Lexus, all the way down to Prius.

      Tesla would have made a terrible blunder by trying to market its car in the typical way to the average motorist. The all-electric car is better sold initially to first adopters who can drive their cars on the streets and let the word get around. People have to hear and understand that electric cars have both natural advantages and limits and that they will have to learn a new way of motoring when they buy one. Over time the word will spread, there will be enough city and highway infrastructure to serve electric cars, and they will become a normal alternative to internal combustion engine-driven cars.

      An additional restraint worth bearing in mind is that it is against the law for Tesla to engage in direct sales—obviously precluding traditional salesmanship—in 26 states. Powerful automobile dealer cartels, backed by special state franchise laws, have put up effective defenses to the entry of new technologies and marketing approaches. The car dealer lobby in Texas, for example, is among the most potent in the state, and they have done their utmost to keep Tesla from engaging in effective competition. Even the smallest snub does not escape their notice: apply for a state E-Z tag for toll road use, for example, and you find that Tesla is not even a listed automobile—although such obscure brands as the Yugo are on the list. So my E-Z tag lists “make” as “unknown” and model as “unknown.” Tesla was also excluded from state electric car incentive programs.

      Tesla has been creative—and successful—in marketing cars using what the article refers to as the “museum curator” approach. They have also rocketed from zero three years ago to the top of the automotive news; its cars are selling in increasing numbers at tremendous premiums. How do you go from this record to treating anything about its sales approach as being “dead last”?

  • avatar

    How is a Tesla showroom NOT able to facilitate a demo drive?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s because most of their showrooms are in malls or places they don’t have access to the cars at a moment’s notice.

      If you go to any regular dealer, they are usually located next to a highway or freeway so a test drive is a snap.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Yup. There is a Tesla store in the Bellevue Square (WA) Mall, and even though I-405 is only a mile away, it will take you almost a half-hour to get to it during rush hour. And then I-405 through downtown Bellevue, well, that’s a whole ‘nuther parking lot.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          If you want to test a Tesla on the freeway you’d be a fool to use I-405 rather than I-90. Much quicker to get to I-90 despite the greater distance, and it’s very rarely congested.

          • 0 avatar
            jconli1

            Decided to finally abandon the city for North Bend this year. Fun hearing about everyone’s godawful 5/405/crosstown slogs when the Abarth zips in in half the time from twice the distance.

    • 0 avatar

      Some state’s dealer licensing laws won’t let it, because Tesla can’t be licensed because they aren’t a franchised dealer, and only dealers can offer test drives:

      http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/companies/2014/09/25/tesla-test-drives-iowa-dot-west-des-moines-laws-illegal/16192477/

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    When you’re prohibited by law in some places to sell cars, or even give test drives, it’s not surprising that your score is so low.

  • avatar
    turf3

    1) Misleading headline: the actual story is not that “dealer experience is poor”, in fact the quotes say exactly the opposite. The actual story is that Tesla dealership are inefficient at selling cars; which is very very different from what the headline says.

    2) Media ARE… “Media” is a plural. There are still legions of us old guys who continue to use the English language. When we are done with it, we’ll let you know.

    • 0 avatar
      King of Eldorado

      I agree that the headline is misleading, unless they meant that the one having the poor dealer experience is the dealer…?

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      Totally agree here. This headline smacks of the “Tesla Deathwatch” days when TTAC used every breath to claim Tesla cars were vaporware.

      To me it looks like the research actually says that Tesla dealers are great: The staff educate customers without annoying them and trying to con them into buying a car. And they’re not pushy about it. That sounds great.

      They have low “conversion to sale” numbers because so many people are interested in the cars, so they visit to check them out. Any other automaker would kill to get this kind of foot traffic in the showroom – but they don’t get it because people HATE car salesmanship. By not playing that game, Tesla welcomes people into showrooms, teaches them about the cars, and lets buyers decide if they want a Tesla. And once they do – the can just order it online. Boom.

      TL:DR version: This report actually says Tesla is winning at the showroom experience.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “But what is wrong with showing interest in the customer, offering a demo drive and asking for the sale?”

    I doubt this is a common issue with Mercedes, but if asking for a sale consists of “what would it take to get you to buy today?” and “so if I can do ‘xxxxx’ you will buy the car?” Then I’m not sad to see it go.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I doubt that’s the kind of sales tactic Mercedes dealers use.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        No and I made that point in my comment.

        Becuase I mostly shop at GM, FCA, Toyota, and Used car dealers “asking for a sale” generally has negative connotation to me. I’d be kind of interested to know how the Mercedes, Lexus, and BMW places do it without beating people into submission.

        • 0 avatar
          Ihatejalops

          “Let’s talk numbers”

          or

          “So what are you thinking about?”

          “Let’s get your trade value”

          Something along those lines. Much softer, but get across the same point.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          In my experience, BMW does not do that sort of thing. It’s very “take it or leave it”, we are here to help when you are ready. Could just be with me – when I am ready to buy a car I know exactly what I want, the only question is price. In doing some cross-shopping, I found Ford to be quite pushy and off-putting when I was looking at Mustangs, but Audi and MB were just like BMW. Fiat I pretty much just went in on a whim and drove some cars, went back a couple days later and bought an Abarth. no pressure, the sales guys were helpful. Perfect.

          For me personally, any sort of aggressive sales tactics would absolutely ensure that I do not buy a car at that dealership – I was NOT impressed with the Ford guys. I have also told an aggressive F&I guy to his face that he was 10 seconds from undoing a sale if he did not shut up and give me the papers to sign.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            “I have also told an aggressive F&I guy to his face that he was 10 seconds from undoing a sale if he did not shut up and give me the papers to sign.”

            Damn! I wish I’d thought of that.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    Seriously what is going on with car salesmen? Many used car salesmen are like this, too. You can just barely get some of them to sell you a car. But they aren’t putting a lot of effort into it. Maybe it’s because they just don’t have to? I dunno.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Selling cars is just another job, and many is not most people are indifferent about their jobs. You’d think a comissioned salesperson would be more hungry, but I’ve noticed the same thing you have at many places.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Given the location of the stores, or whatever you want to call them, I imagine that many of the visitors aren’t “Prospects” at all; just mall window-shoppers stopping in.

    And I’m curious as to the methods of this survey. Are they truly measuring satisfaction (by actual prospects, not just window shoppers), or are they using a checklist with the things they, personally, think Tesla should be doing, but isn’t?

    • 0 avatar
      trackratmk1

      How PSI measures Sales Effectiveness – STRAIGHT from their website…

      Mystery shopping the following criteria:
      – When a shopper walks through the door (In-Person Sales Mystery Shopping)
      – When an Internet Lead is received (Internet Sales Mystery Shopping)
      – When a Telephone Lead is received (Telephone Sales Mystery Shopping)

      Tesla doesn’t DO any of these things in the traditional sense. Is it any surprise they scored dead last in an index comprised of traditional franchised dealership metrics?

      • 0 avatar
        trackratmk1

        Also, it was just announced that Tesla is the best selling EV manufacturer in the US. How bad can their Sales Effectiveness be when there are a bunch of lower priced EV’s for sale that no one is buying?
        But Tesla can sell a $100,000+ one through a non-franchised model. Hmmm, again this survey smacks of hidden agenda.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Thank you for the truth. This article made no sense to me as. The dealership experience is bad? Based on converting “visits” into “sales”. Ummm not when you are selling a premium product. If anything this proves Telsa is doing a good job, the are finding the RIGHT customer for their product and not just handing out keys. In addition I’d say 9 out of 10 people in a Telsa store are just window shopping. Similar to the Sharper Image, they just walk in to test out that $5K message chair but ain’t buying it. I know I’ve been in two Telsa showrooms just to look. Never been to any other high end car dealership because one look at me and my decade old sports car would cause a security alert.

        Also Mitsubishi is next to last in this survey? The company that will literally finance anyone who has pulse? Something ain’t right here.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Worst editorial I’ve seen on TTAC in a long time. Steve, make up your mind: is Tesla lousy at converting sales, or lousy at customer experience? Those are two very different things.

    Of course, when you are a brand new company selling a very different kind of vehicle, you are going to spend more time with potential customers to convince them to buy Tesla. The fact that Tesla is 86% as effective at conversion as the industry as a whole is actually quite impressive.

    Also, who the hell is Pied Piper? Are they a spin-off from that HBO show?

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      “Who the hell is Pied Piper?”

      It’s even worse than you think, VoGo. Their own website says they’re a private consulting firm that “works with most auto and motorcycle OEMs and national dealer groups.”

      http://www.piedpipermc.com/who-we-are.htm

      In other words, they’re a firm with a gigantic conflict of interest, conducting a study that was quite possibly commissioned by Tesla’s mortal enemies specifically to discredit the Tesla retail model.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        That’s what I was thinking when I read this. The idea that a firm I’ve never heard of after reading most automotive journalism for the past 35+ years is suddenly on the radar because they’ve produced a survey that criticizes the first viable challenge to the hated franchise dealer model should have set off alarms for Steve. I’m no Tesla supporter, but this is a hatchet piece by a group that either produces studies to order or was formed to produce bad press for Tesla stores.

  • avatar
    Fred

    What does the phrase “..asking for the sale?” mean.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Would you like to buy this car?”

      That’s about it. Interestingly, many sales people actually find it hard to ask their customers to buy their product. They’ll spend a lot of time explaining benefits and features, but not actually ask the customer to buy and let them walk out the door. Those types aren’t “closers”.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        Thanks, I thought it might be that. I imagine Tesla gets a lot of lookers given their locations. I was one of those.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          It’s a different business model than the average car dealer for sure. That’s why it’s difficult to compare them on the same abstract metrics like this.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The goal of the average car dealer is to move metal. Any metal. If a guy walks into the dealership to buy a new Ford and leaves with a used Chevy, it makes no difference to the dealer — a sale is a sale, and the salesman does not have to teach his customer about the advantages of internal combustion.

            The goal of a Tesla store is to evangelize electric cars. Totally different objective. They chose to go to malls and sell direct so that they could spread the gospel — at this stage, working with conventional car dealers would be a very bad fit.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    This is a misleading article.

    As someone noted, “poor dealer experience” is very different for what the article is actually describing.

    And Steve, how about a “critical” approach to the story? The whole point of Tesla is that it is unlike business as usual (I hate the term “disruption” but there it is). This story simply says oh, Tesla is unlike others in dealer experience. Well duh. You can certainly criticize it, but “unlike the others” is not one of them. Instead, it’s the stated objective.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The problem with Tesla dealers is their mall locations. Sure, they see 3x more traffic than a standard dealership, but 97% of it is only interested in touching the goods and taking some Tesla selfies, not making a purchase.

    People heading down to the Mercedes dealership in South Suburb, USA are interested in a car. They don’t happen by the dealership and stroll in, by chance picking up an E-Class.

    The thing is, the people with the kind of “green initiative” and disposable income who buy these expensive Teslas are not opposed to traveling to visit a dealer. They don’t care. Mall convenience is not a plus!

    Mall convenience is a plus to preggo teenagers who walk around the showroom in their sneakers making marks on the floor and answering surveys about how they didn’t purchase a car, though. They’re angry the hair gel victim inside didn’t open the doors for them and ask them how they’re doing, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      They probably see a lot of guys like me, dragged to the mall by wives and girlfriends and see something that is more interesting than shoes and jewelery.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “The problem with Tesla dealers is their mall locations.”

      That’s not a problem, that’s a benefit. Tesla is trying to turn people on to the idea of electric cars. It isn’t going to do that by building auto mall islands and having a bunch of guys in polyester suits who will have less product knowledge than their customers and who are eager to steer them over to the “pre-owned” side of the dealership.

      The author doesn’t realize it, but he makes a convincing case for why Tesla has little choice but to use a direct sales model at this stage of the game. Tesla’s odds are bad enough as is; dealers with their conflicting goals would just ensure that they fail.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I’ve been to the Tesla store at the Maul (sic) at Short Hills several times when out-of-towners wanted to see one up close. The last time I was there, my friend and I were invited to a Tesla driving event. They made it sound like a party with food and a great deal of fun.

    So they are trying to get folks like me who might appear to afford an expensive car, but don’t car. Besides, when I get invited to motoring related party, I prefer that it’s the kind that requires protective gear such as helmets, leather gloves, boots, and an Aerostich.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Besides, when I get invited to motoring related party, I prefer that it’s the kind that requires protective gear such as helmets, leather gloves, boots, and an Aerostich.”

      Reading this the first time I thought to myself, “Hells yeah, I like motoring parties and Aerosmith too.”

  • avatar

    In my area, Tesla is the car you get instead of an E class lease. You probably have two other gas cars in the driveway.

    I also think you have to pass a test that you will aggressively PR the car to any passersby or folks who innocently inquire.

    Living and working in this area Long Island is a hothouse of class divide very close together. The North Shore (or Gold Coast as they describe themselves) is amazingly concentrated money. Fascinating from a social perspective. Make in in NYC and spend it on LI is the mantra.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Funny to see Infiniti there in front of Lexus for dealership satisfaction. I thought Lexus was always tops, with the best sales and service, evah!?

    Perhaps it’s because some of their showrooms are very outdated now. I still see the ol’ 80’s “roof block” ones around. In fact I think one of the two or three Lexus dealers in Cincinnati still is that style (Lexus Rivercenter).
    http://s3-media1.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/NaoneZw2p5TvTzGcy19nbw/o.jpg Yep it’s still like that.

    The Infiniti showrooms are more modern and airy, at least here the Infiniti o’ Cincinnati has just been redone, and was very nice. Everyone was extra friendly and courteous, though the girl answering the phone was quite unprofessional between her phone calls, and not presentable.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    I had the opposite experience to this with Tesla in Chicago (Skokie, IL). They were nice, asked a lot of questions even took notes of what I drove and I had no problem going for a test drive. The problem is because it is not really a dealership, there are not a lot of staff on hand so if you are there and a lot of other people are there at the same time, you might not get a chance to go on a test drive. The one flaw I see with their system is that they don’t do any followup. If you have someone’s email and phone number, you should at least contact them afterwards and see how they liked the vehicle and if they are interested in buying one.

    The most interesting thing I have noticed from Tesla showrooms and auto shows across the country is that the people most interested in them seem to be older people like my dad’s age in their 60s, not young people. You would think people that age would eschew technology but it seems to be the opposite.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      Good observation on the age, and it’s probably reflective of the fact that not too many young people have the kind of discretionary income for Teslas.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “. There are days when over 50 percent of the pieces on auto industry news feeds are about Tesla,”

    and TTAC is but another sucker in the Tesla media game.
    I cannot tell you how many times I ranted about yet Another Tesla feature for the second and third time in a week! They sell the fewest amount of cars and get the most print.

    And as far as getting lookers…any auto company that sets up a show room in a mall or on the trendy Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA would get lookers walking in to check out the chassis and cool cars.
    If Merc or BMW had a beautiful walk-in people would gather…that is why you see them around airports and such.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “research firm Pied Piper Management Company”

    Never heard of them. But the Pied Piper was known for his power over rats and children, so that’s an interesting name for a business that provides consulting services to car dealers.

    I should note that I am not exactly shy about my Tesla skepticism and the direct sales model as a blueprint for the industry as a whole, but these kinds of stories from the pro-dealer contingent make you look like you’re out of touch.

    The lack of a hard sale is not the sort of thing that is going to horrify that average American who not only doesn’t work at a car dealership but loathes the process of car shopping. You may as well sneer at a guy because he doesn’t get into enough bar brawls whenever he goes for drinks.

  • avatar
    probert

    I surely don’t understand this article.

    Set up strawman about slobbering press – probably not true.

    Then dealer experience: maybe overly polite and no hard sell. Horrors.

    Imply this shows a lack of interest. Why what?

    I’d say this article is more on par with what I see from media that has never driven the car – nit picking and absurd.

  • avatar
    ErickKS

    In the automotive world, it sure seems like you’re not supposed to say anything bad at all about Tesla or self-driving cars.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    I want my pageview back.

    If the “new” TTAC is going to bring me clickbait titles that have nothing to do with the actual story (how does not pushing for a sale = poor dealership experience???) then things have truly taken a turn for the worse.

    I am a steadfast supporter of Tesla and was genuinely interested to see where the company was coming up short, as I’ve only heard good things about the dealers. This just REEKS of dealership PR, pure and simple, but it’s the bullshit headline I take the most issue.

    There are plenty of fair criticisms to level at Musk and co., including the fact that the Model X still hasn’t entered production, their shady way of calculating your “total” price, and the likelihood that the $35,000 Model III will end up costing a lot more than that once you tick off just a couple of basic options.

    But this? You guys can do better.

  • avatar
    MarkySparky

    Please please please can we get an article about Tesla on TTAC that actually informs or has nuance? It is seriously embarrassing to read any Tesla content because it has four flavors:

    1) Hur dur look at these silly newfangled electric vehicles; gas has way better energy density; ayyy lmao manual transmission !!!!11!

    2) GM/Toyota/BMW/etc sell more cars ergo they are invincible; TSLA to zero; current dealer rules are the natural order of the universe

    3) Tesla only exists because of subsidies; GM never got subsidies no way no how; please subscribe to my global warming denialist newsletter.

    4) Tesla’s are nice, BUT can they travel 500 miles at 150 mph on one charge in the winter while towing a UHaul for the low low price of $30,000 with Nav and sunroof? No? Well that just proves Elon Musk is a lying liar.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “MarkySparky”, eh? I gotta feelin’ that you like them newfangled Electrical Vee-hic-als. :-)

      Gawd, if I had the disposable income, I’d buy one tomorrow. So that’s maybe why I’ll never test drive one – don’t want to be teased.

      As to “Pie-Eyed-Piper” and its survey: STFU. Over and out.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      +1, MS.

  • avatar
    Chopsui

    This is an awful post.

    Tesla doesn’t offer test drives and doesn’t ask for sales BECAUSE THEY ARE PROHIBITED BY LAW TO DO SO in many (most?) states. Why is that? Because of dealership associations and their stranglehold on state governments.

    Dude, do you even news?

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Lynch

      That fact was mentioned in the story.

      • 0 avatar
        Chopsui

        Only the part about offering test drives and this statement –

        “Say what you want about the current franchised dealer system, but what is wrong with showing interest in the customer, offering a demo drive and asking for the sale? It is not happening at Tesla outlets.”

        – which is the crux of the entire article, implies that not “showing interest in the customer, offering a demo drive and asking for the sale” is a choice made by Tesla. It’s not. It’s forced on them by anti-competitive franchise laws.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    @Mark Stevenson,

    Would you be so kind as to give the commentariat your thought process as to why the article, its title and assumptions are valid based on the information given?

    • 0 avatar
      clivesl

      +1, I would love to hear what exact news value this story provided.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I explained it below. You can learn a lot about the mindset of car dealers from articles like this, which is useful when one is car shopping.

        For example, it is interesting that one of the criteria is whether the sales person prods a prospect about how s/he intends to use the car. This is part of a command-and-control tactic that is designed to give the sales guy/gal more intel on you than you have about them. And ultimately, it’s an effort to make the negotiation process about more than just price, i.e. to get you to pay more for something because you aren’t focusing on price. They’re trying to get you to think about your hot buttons, not the numbers.

        To salespeople, that matters. Personally, I have no desire to discuss my driving habits with a guy in a bad suit who barely finished high school. (Presumably, I already know enough about them to be at the dealership in the first place.) But since I know that achieving these milestones makes them that much more eager to close, I provide enough information to make them feel like they’re in charge… until it’s time to pull the rug out from under them. Makes for much easier haggling.

        • 0 avatar
          clivesl

          I think you and I differ in that I don’t tend to deal with salespeople at all if I can help it.

          I find the car I want, I go to the dealer, test drive it and then tell them what I’ll pay. Then I pull out my kindle and keep saying no until they meet the number or ask me to leave.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            First rule of negotiation: Have the other guy name the first number.

          • 0 avatar
            clivesl

            Yeah, I don’t negotiate with dealers much, it’s really more of a take or leave it type of deal. It has been a long time since I have spent more than an hour in a dealership.

            It helps being in the Bay area, I can always find another dealer with another car.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            A good haggle doesn’t take long at all, although it takes more than five minutes.

            If you spend four hours dickering, for example, then you probably did a poor job of it because you were being played.

            You don’t want to name the first number because part of the price discovery process involves shutting your mouth and allowing the other guy to help you to discover the price. Instead of focusing on specific numbers, start by getting them to negotiate against themselves and making the numbers smaller.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Besides the logistics issues inherent in mall locations, something not mentioned may have to do with the product itself. Tesla, being a very advanced technology, high-end product, would likely attract tech-savvy, well-off early adopters who have already done extensive research on the product before they even set foot in the showroom. Then, when they do, they’ve already pretty much made the commitment that they’re going to buy one.

    I would imagine it’s somewhere between the buying experience of ultra-high-end marques like Ferrari and Rolls Royce, and other, high-tech vehicles like the Prius and Volt. You’re simply not going to get anywhere employing high-pressure tactics like you’d get at your local Dodge or Nissan dealership. I would think that a Tesla salesman is going to have to be well-versed in the product and not the typical, ‘say anything but have no knowledge of the product’ car salesman. Otherwise, a prospective Tesla buyer will quickly leave.

    IOW, much more of ‘consultant’ than ‘salesman’.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    This TTAC article is flawed on two levels: both the dubiousness of the study itself, and the conclusions Steve Lynch draws from it.

    The Study:
    They admit Tesla goes for the museum curator approach, then admit that customer’s don’t mind in the slightest. What exactly is their problem with the dealer experience then? That Tesla doesn’t apply the hard sell, which many customers (including myself) hate? How does the hurt the customer experience?

    Mr. Lynch:
    >> If Tesla wants to succeed in America they need to drop their direct sales strategy and join the traditional franchised dealer network by partnering with an established brand.

    ??? Exactly how did he make that leap? Tesla is *production* constrained, not demand constrained, and they are selling cars as fast as they can make ’em, using the museum curator approach to boot. It’s like Mr. Lynch is saying “If Tesla wants to succeed in America, they need to drop their sales formula which currently has them selling their cars like hotcakes.” There are still many challenges for Tesla to overcome if they want to succeed, but figuring out how to boost sales isn’t one of them.

    Both the study and Mr. Lynch way lost sight of the forest for the trees.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’m more interested in how we have Dodge and Chrysler just above average, but Jeep, in the same show room no less, near the bottom.

    Is this due to salesmen having a lack of knowledge about the product? Or what am I missing?

    Edit: Similarly how is smart so far from Mercedes? Do they have their own waiting rooms at the dealership? Trying to keep “those” buyers away from the others?

  • avatar
    trackratmk1

    This whole idea of the “Prospect Satisfaction Index” is completely misleading. It might as well be called “Sales Funnel Application Index,” meaning to what exact degree did salespeople successfully apply the Sales Funnel process to their prospects (Sales funnel = Intro, needs assessment, trade-in, walk around, test drive… all the way to deal closure with F&I and followup.)

    It’s not the customer that’s been interviewed to get these results. It’s employees of Pied Piper, who are looking to see how effectively they are being sold to while undercover.

    Not to say the results of these aren’t useful for the dealers and manufacturers that they service, but to paint the picture as one brand treating sales prospects better than others is a flagrant misrepresentation.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      What it shows you is that the dealership industry view of what makes a happy customer is quite different from how the customer sees it.

      The car sales business is a bit like a cult that regards bizarre practices and attitudes as normal.

      I can understand that what they do may make good business sense from their perspective because it makes them more money to do what they do. But they lose the plot when they try to convince themselves that what they are doing is actually something that customers enjoy. Perhaps they have to lie to themselves so that they don’t have any moral qualms about their MO.

  • avatar
    clivesl

    “Study shows Californians favor Obama replacing Top Gear Presenter with Tesla’s Elon Musk!”

    Now that’s a click bait headline! This is just a solid, yet unspectacular click-bait attempt.

    The crappy ‘survey’
    The snark
    The twisting of a crappy survey to make it sound even worse to further the writer’s agenda.

    Sadly, the author didn’t mention Obama or Top Gear, so I’m giving this a 7 out 10 on my TTAC clickbait meter!!

  • avatar
    dr_pescado

    This article is ridiculous and misleading. Most of the stuff they measure, Tesla doesn’t even do. The Pied Piper Prospect Index? Really? They are measuring Tesla by a yard stick when they should be measuring them with watt meter. Oh and how many people did they talk to and where? That’s conveniently missing. Beyond that yes, they would be dead last in slamming people into product or as described “dead last in converting prospects into buyers.” You know why? They don’t have to. They have no problem selling their products on the merits of the experience and product itself.

    As for some contrived index about prospects, who cares? Here are the facts 1) owners LOVE the experience and 2) owners LOVE the vehicle. Our study of thousands as well competitive studies from JD Power back it up. This seems like a status quo puff piece for the backward hinterlands of the industry who are unwilling to change.

    I guess time will tell, but what is obvious and unequivocal – customers love the experience and are willing to come back. It’s not my opinion, its the opinion of owners. Lots and lots of owners. Check it out here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tesla-future-automotive-retailing-dave-fish or even an independent source here http://www.torquenews.com/1083/newest-jd-power-and-associates-study-proves-why-tesla-and-model-s-are-so-popular.

    This article is reflection of how how out of out touch parts of the industry are and why they are ripe for disruption. I bet the leadership of Blockbuster Video, Palm Pilot, and Kmart had similar stand pat attitudes and confabulated “research” to back it up. Seemed to work of fine for them…


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