When a group of shoppers was sent to major car dealers to measure their experiences as they shop for a new car, Tesla Inc.’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) network took the bottom spot. The reason for the low grade was uneven customer treatment from dealer to dealer.
According to the 2017 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI):
Although the Tesla dealer network was ranked last again for 2017, with a PSI score of 94, Tesla improved 8 points from 2016, which was the most improvement of any brand. Tesla’s low PSI score was not caused by differences in sales process consistently followed by all Tesla locations nationally. Instead, the low score resulted from high variability in sales process behaviors from one Tesla dealership location to another. For example, Tesla staff on average asked how the vehicle would be used only about half the time (64%), asked about trade-ins 45% of the time, and suggested going through the numbers 56% of the time. About one in four (23%) of Tesla visits were exceptional experiences that under the PSI “letter grade” scale earned an “A,” with an average PSI score above 130. However, 32% of the visits earned a PSI letter grade of “D” or “F,” with an average PSI score below 75. In comparison, top-performing dealer networks such as those of Infiniti, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz earned a PSI letter grade of “A” about 50% of the time, and a “D” or “F” grade less than 15% of the time.
Infiniti finished first in the survey with a PSI of 114. It has had little success in its attempt to move into the top tier of luxury car companies based on sales. Two luxury brands that do lead the market in sales fell just behind Infiniti. The Lexus division of Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) posted a score of 112. Mercedes-Benz had a score of 111. Among car companies that market to the broader market, Toyota had a score of 108, which put it in fourth place. Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) and Hyundai tied for fifth at 106.
Also at the bottom of the list were two Fiat Chrysler Automobile N.V. (NYSE: FCA) car brands. Jeep had a score of 95 and Fiat of 97. Joining them at the bottom, Volvo had a score of 96. Chinese-owned Volvo has tried to break into the luxury market in the United States but sales have been poor.
Methodology: The 2017 Pied Piper PSI U.S. Auto Industry Study measured in-dealership treatment of car shoppers and was conducted between July 2016 and June 2017 using 5,289 hired anonymous “mystery shoppers” at dealerships located throughout the United States.