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Infiniti tops prospect satisfaction ranking for second consecutive year

July 10, 2017 0 Comments

For the second year in a row, Infiniti has taken the top spot in a study on prospect satisfaction.

Pied Piper Management Co. released their study on Monday, measuring how effectively dealerships for different brands sell cars when shoppers visit their stores.

The 2017 Pied Piper Satisfaction Index is based on “how dealerships treated mystery shoppers who visited 5,289 stores in the U.S.” from last July until June 2017.

Infiniti took the lead with a score of 114 on the Index, followed by Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, all notably better than the rest of the brands. Toyota came fourth, with Honda and Hyundai tied for fifth.

Four brands tied for seventh: Audi, Lincoln, Ram, and Subaru. In eleventh place, with an industry-average score of 104, was a six-way tie between BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Jaguar, Kia, and Nissan.

Fiat, Volvo, Jeep, and Tesla brought up the rear with scores that were “notably worse” than the other brands.

Tesla, while the most significantly improved since last year’s ranking (up eight points), was still at the bottom with an industry-worst score of 94. According to Pied Piper, the reason for such a low score is a “high variability in sales-process behaviors” at Tesla stores.

“What we found was a tremulous variation. Maybe one time out of four, the interaction is ‘exceptional,’” said Pied Piper CEO Fran O’Hagan to Automotive News. “But, unfortunately – I believe it’s about one-third of the time – the Tesla dealership falls into ‘museum-curator’ mode” – meaning, he said, “you’re friendly and you answer any questions, but you just don’t do anything to sell. They don’t really do all they can to help you become a Tesla owner.”

A few other reasons Tesla may be at the back of the pack are “neglecting to ask about trade-ins, how the vehicle would be used and going through the numbers on a lease or purchase with customers” – all factors which can help differentiate a friendly salesperson from a helpful one.

In other words, visits to Tesla outlets earned an “A” about one in four times, but earned a “D” or an “F” one in three times. In comparison, the top three ranked brands in the study earned an “A” with store visits about 50 percent of the time, with less than 15 percent of visits earning a “D” or an “F.”

Pied Piper also noted how some salespeople try to build rapport with customers as a difference between how sales staffers’ perform among automotive brands. They found that salespeople at Lincoln, Hyundai, Infiniti, Lexus, and Smart tried to build rapport about 60 percent of the time, while those at Porsche, Jeep, Fiat, Volvo, and Ford only did so about 35 percent of the time.

Additionally, the presence of a trade-in vehicle could “change the terms of a deal” or even become an “obstacle to a purchase.” The Pied Piper study found that the salespeople at GMC, Nissan, Chevrolet, Dodge, and Chrysler dealerships asked about trade-ins 90 percent of the time, while only 55 percent did so at Tesla, Porsche, Lincoln, Mini, and Smart dealerships.

Since the prospect satisfaction study began in 2007, the Internet has “changed the game” for car buyers, said O’Hagan. With its advances, nine out of ten car shoppers do online research before walking into a dealership, leaving salespeople with “fewer opportunities” to sway them.

“You’re seeing the customer [when he or she is] all the way down the purchase funnel, in many instances,” O’Hagan said. “The salespeople have to act as if this customer is the most important person to walk in the door because in this case they are. They’re ready to buy.”

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