The cars are great when they're working but Tesla needs to focus on all areas of the customer experience.
California-based Reputation has just revealed the results of its 2022 Automotive Reputation Report. The experience of driving and owning a great vehicle can quickly be undone by a poor dealership experience. That's why Reputation analyzed 20,000 dealers in the US and Canada, and 35,000 around the globe, while also scouring through five million auto dealer ratings and reviews.
Each automaker then received an overall reputation score, and this year, it's Lexus, Infiniti, Subaru, and BMW that came out on top when considering both non-luxury and luxury brands in the USA. Compared to just about every other brand, Tesla returned a dismal reputation rating despite skyrocketing sales this year.
Before we dig deeper into the rankings, it's worth explaining the Reputation Score in more detail. Measured out of 1,000 overall points, the score considers sentiment, visibility, and engagement from one automaker to the next. Reputation points out that the Feedback Economy we currently experience is driven by thousands of customer conversations that happen on social media, review sites, and in surveys.
Reviews matter a great deal, as 70% of consumers say that they'd travel 20 miles to a dealership if they knew it had a top rating. Collating all of this data is not easy but Reputation's advanced analytics have helped to create the rankings we see here. In terms of US non-luxury brands, Subaru ranked first with a reputation score of 698.
Subaru's top ranking aligns with a separate J.D. Power Automotive Brand Loyalty Study last year that ranked the Japanese marque highest among mass market brands.
Although Subaru has seen disappointing sales for its new WRX, the brand's rugged crossovers like the Forester are clearly doing the job, and its dealers are coming to the party too with a customer experience that rates highly.
Following Subaru in the reputation score rankings for US non-luxury brands was Mitsubishi (689 points) which has seen a meteoric rise from 2020, when it ranked just 17th in the same study. Mitsubishi was followed by Toyota (679), Nissan (675), Honda (667), and Kia (653). Yes, the Japanese brands absolutely dominated once again. The non-luxury brand industry average was 637 points, and most brands fell below this.
Languishing at the bottom of the non-luxury list were Ram (610), Jeep (609), Chrysler (609), Dodge (608), and Fiat (607). These brands all fall under the Stellantis umbrella, so clearly there is much room for improvement. While we didn't expect Fiat to rank highly with its small US footprint, it's disappointing to see the likes of Ram, Jeep, and Dodge perform so poorly.
In the US category for luxury brands, Lexus ranked first with 749 points, the most for any single brand. The consistency of Lexus in providing its owners with a top-class ownership experience, from the little UX to the exotic LC, is extremely impressive.
Lexus was followed by Infiniti (728), BMW (696), Porsche (681), and Acura (670). The industry average for luxury brands was 608, and the shocker here is that Tesla was by far the poorest-performing brand on 456 points. Tesla's engagement score barely registered at a paltry 3% - perhaps not a great surprise for a company that disbanded its PR department - and it was well below par in terms of sentiment and visibility as well. Elon Musk's company also performed poorly in other major markets like Canada and the UK, so this isn't a US-specific problem.
While Tesla continues to have a loyal fanbase, its reputation has taken a knock several times this year alone. An angry group of owners in Norway staged a protest after encountering several issues with their cars, Autopilot has once again made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and some owners have faced security issues with their vehicles. Based on this study's scores, Tesla's failure to adequately engage with customers when issues do crop up is a major obstacle.
For EVs in general, the volume of reviews is climbing as more people make the switch from ICE cars. However, the industry's ongoing supply chain disruptions and consequent low inventory have left buyers frustrated.
Reputation advises brands and their dealerships to take a holistic approach and deliver a great experience for the customer at every touchpoint, not just when they're behind the wheel, to boost their scores.