When it comes to shopping experiences, maybe the Apple Store setup doesn’t work for cars.
As it turns out, the shady persona adopted by car salesmen who act like they want to be your friend in exchange for a car sale actually works. That’s why the most successful dealerships squeeze in useful comments and questions during rapport-building conversations with the customer. These include mentioning the availability of different financing options, asking about reasons preventing a purchase, asking about trade ins, discussing unique features, asking why customers considered the brand, and handing out print materials.
To see how well dealerships of different automakers do, mystery shoppers go into dealerships and rank them based on the Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index. The index ranks how well dealerships do at following sales processes, and according to the data, the luxury brands are at the top. Infiniti took first place followed by Mercedes, Lexus, Toyota, and Audi. Towards the bottom of the list was GM, Mitsubishi, Volvo, and ranked last, Tesla. The fact that Elon Musk’s brand ranked last place may be surprising to many since Tesla has its own unique system of selling cars. Rather than sell to dealerships that act as a middleman, Tesla sells its cars directly from first part stores.
This gives the company more control over the sales process, so what is it that’s causing Tesla to falter? Speaking with Wards Auto, president and CEO of consultancy Pied Piper Management Fran O’Hagan said that Tesla salespeople are more like museum curators than salespeople. They answer questions about the cars but don’t make the additional push to sell the cars. This may be due to the nature of the Tesla store atmosphere, which usually consists of more curious onlookers than potential customers. Additionally, Tesla’s structure means that it has a harder time taking in vehicle trade-ins while its relative infancy signifies inexperience at the sales game. With practice comes perfect, but for now it seems like the established brands win.