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Tesla scores again, winning by having the least ‘salesy’ dealership staff

For the fourth consecutive year, Tesla scored dead last in a nationwide car dealership survey, according to the Los Angeles Times. The odds are excellent CEO Elon Musk will be just as happy with the company’s last-place finish this year on Pied Piper‘s survey as he was in previous years.

Pied Piper sends mystery shoppers to car dealerships across the U.S. to collect data for the Prospect Satisfaction Index. The index is designed to measure dealership sales staff’s ability to turn prospects into customers.

To assess dealership performance, the mystery shoppers look for specific behaviors from showroom personnel. Pied Piper’s Chief Executive Fran O’Hagan told the L.A. Times that sales staff for the highest-scoring car companies on the index “work hard to be helpful, rather than just sitting back and answering customer questions. For example, they fact-find to determine why a customer is visiting, what’s important to the customer, and how the customer intends to use the vehicle.”

Pied Piper mystery shoppers surveyed 57 of Tesla’s 74 U.S. showrooms. The Tesla dealerships were not all the same, according to Hagan, which he found surprising.

Unlike conventional car dealerships, which operate under franchise agreements with manufacturers, Tesla owns its showrooms. Based on that business structure, Hagan told the L.A. Times: “My expectation is that their stores would be very consistent across locations.”

Pied Piper found that one in four Tesla showrooms rated among the highest in the surveys. However, the mystery shoppers gave failing grades to most Tesla outlets. Overall, the automaker finished in last place, with the lowest rating of the 35 auto brands surveyed.

When the L.A. Times asked Tesla for a comment, the company responded by pointing to Musk’s tweeted comment following the last Pied Piper rating, when Tesla was also at the bottom of the pack.

“Tesla finishes last in being salesy! Good. Also, I can’t believe there is a real Pied Piper,” Musk tweeted in reference to the fictional company at the center of the HBO series Silicon Valley.

Tesla finishes last in being salesy! Good. Also, I can't believe there is a real Pied Piper.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 12, 2016

While O’Hagan referred to the attitude of most Tesla showroom personnel as “the museum curator mode,” that’s exactly what Musk, and by extension Tesla, want.

Musk structured Tesla’s sales division as company-owned showrooms where the money is made selling cars, not service after the sale, which is how traditional dealerships make most of their profit. Tesla strives to build cars that require minimal service compared to vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs).

Tesla discourages hard sales techniques by its showroom personnel, who are called “showroom advisors.” The electric car company was formed in part to change the public’s perception of car buying, which the company has previously stated is “worse than getting a root canal,” quoting from an online survey conducted by Harris Poll in 2016 for the now-defunct Beepi.

So, another last place rating in traditional showroom behaviors that lead to a sale? That’s almost guaranteed to put a smile on Musk’s face.

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Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
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