Tesla Dead Last in Dealer Experience, First in PR

Steve Lynch
by Steve Lynch
tesla dead last in dealer experience first in pr

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.

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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  • Clivesl Clivesl on Jul 16, 2015

    "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!!

  • Dr_pescado Dr_pescado on Aug 17, 2015

    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...

  • SCE to AUX Probably couldn't afford it - happens all the time.
  • MaintenanceCosts An ugly-a$s Challenger with poor equipment choices and an ugly Dealership Default color combination, not even a manual to redeem it, still no sale.
  • Cha65689852 To drive a car, you need human intelligence, not artificial intelligence.Unfortunately, these days even human brains are turning into mush thanks to addiction to smartphones and social media.
  • Mike1041 A nasty uncomfortable little car. Test drove in 2019 in a search for a single car that would appease two drivers. The compromise was not much better but at least it had decent rear vision and cargo capacity. The 2019 Honda HRV simply was too unforgiving and we ditched after 4 years. Enter the 23 HRV and we have a comfy size.
  • SCE to AUX I wonder who really cares about this. "Slave labor" is a useful term for the agendas of both right and left."UAW Wants Auto Industry to Stop Using Slave Labor"... but what will the UAW actually do if nothing changes?With unrelenting downward pressure on costs in every industry - coupled with labor shortages - expect to see more of this.Perhaps it's my fault when I choose the $259 cell phone over the $299 model, or the cheaper parts at RockAuto, or the lower-priced jacket at the store.Do I care about an ethical supply chain? Not really, I just want the product to work - and that's how most consumers are. We'd rather not know.Perhaps the 1990s notion of conflict-free, blood-free, ethically-sourced diamonds will find its way into the auto industry. That would be a good thing.