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Tesla Stores Rank Dead Last On New Secret Shopper “Satisfaction” Index

The most recent Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (for 2015) — a yearly secret shopper review of auto-dealership sales effectiveness — has placed Tesla dead last, well behind pretty much every other auto brand operating in the US.

Tesla Store Santa Barbara California

Tesla store in Santa Barbara, California | Image Credit: Kyle Field

The annual review aims to determine the degree to which auto dealerships (and Tesla stores) follow sales processes and ask “qualifying questions” + look for the sale.

While Tesla took dead last by a notable margin (and for the second year in a row), the top of the list beat many of the other manufacturers by a notable degree as well — with Infiniti, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota all standing clear above the competition.

“Tesla leaves me scratching my head,” commented Fran O’Hagan, president and CEO of consultancy Pied Piper Management, in an interview with Wards Auto. “They own all of their stores, so you would think each one would be doing the same thing. But they’re not. Tesla is consistent in its inconsistencies.”

There is apparently, according to O’Hagan, a “huge variation” in Tesla’s store-to-store sales effectiveness. Speaking about the select few that “do all the right things,” he commented that “they want you to buy, and prepare you to buy.”

This compares to some Tesla stores, where the staff act like “museum curators,” according to the Pied Piper CEO.

Wards Auto continues, noting that the staff “spoke knowledgeably about the products and answered customer questions, but shied away from asking for the sale in an ill-advised demonstration of underselling. Nor did most Tesla sales representatives ask if customers had vehicles to trade in. Most consumers do, and put the equity from those trade-ins towards the purchase of new cars. Pied Piper mystery shopped only Tesla stores that actually sell vehicles. It skipped mall locations and others that basically display the EVs.”

How relevant is all of this to sales? According to Pied Piper, “on average, when auto dealerships are ranked by their PSI score, dealerships in the top quarter sell 16% more vehicles than the dealerships in the bottom quarter.”

Given how distant Tesla’s approach to sales and marketing is, it’s hard to tell how relevant the findings are. After all, one of the things many Tesla buyers praise the company for is the relatively hassle-free buying experience. While Tesla perhaps does lose sales owing to the more hands-off approach, it’s also a clear plus to those who don’t like feeling like someone is trying force a sale (as is the case at most auto dealerships). Overall, Tesla’s approach to selling cars has gotten a ton of praise for consumers, and presumably pulls a lot more people into its stores and toward the company, which eventually leads to more sales.

Here’s an overview of some of the sales behavior “improvements” that have become increasingly common over the last decade:

  • Mentioned the availability of different financing or lease options (occurred 79% of the time in 2016). Highest scoring: Infiniti, Lexus, and Toyota. Lowest: Subaru, Tesla, and Lincoln.
  • Asked about reasons preventing purchase (occurred 74% of the time in 2016). Highest scoring: Toyota, Fiat, and Kia. Lowest: Tesla, Smart, and Cadillac.
  • Discussed features unique from competition (occurred 63% of the time in 2016). Highest scoring: Tesla, Subaru, and Lexus. Lowest: Chrysler, Chevrolet, and Mitsubishi.

Examples of 2016 salesperson behaviors that have decreased during that time period:

  • Offered printed materials for shoppers to take with them (occurred 45% of the time in 2016). Highest scoring: Jaguar, Mini, and Lexus. Lowest: Tesla, Volvo, and Mazda. [Giving customers printed material is important because “that piece of paper keeps selling,” O’Hagan says. “But with the advent of the Internet, some dealers say, ‘We don’t need to do that.”’
  • Asked how the vehicle will be used (occurred 70% of the time in 2016). Highest scoring: Ram, Smart, and Porsche. Lowest scoring: Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, and Tesla.
  • Asked customers why they considered the brand (occurred 59% of the time in 2016). Highest scoring: Porsche, Volkswagen, and Infiniti. Lowest: Mitsubishi, Jaguar, and Chevrolet. [“Asking that helps a salesperson figure out what direction to take when discussing the brand,” O’Hagan. “It’s part of fact-finding and figuring out why someone is at the dealership.”]
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