Here’s what legacy car manufacturers and dealers should take away from our recent study about what works for car buyers in Tesla’s approach.
As a disruptive leader in the automotive industry, Tesla owns approximately 60-70% of the current EV market share. That dominance is expected to decrease as legacy auto makers offer more model options, better availability, and enhanced service offerings. Based on Perficient’s recent study, a critical risk for that growth is the customer experience gap.
In our survey sample, 41% of EV buyers purchased a Tesla within the past year. A whopping 96% of them were satisfied with their in-person buying experience. And 71% considered their relationship with the dealer or showroom important or very important when making a purchase, with only 40% of non-EV buyers agreeing.
Based on the study data, our interviews, and our review of the Tesla experience, we believe there are two critical lessons for auto makers and dealers:
- Creating a deep understanding of audience needs and expectations
- Enabling low-pressure sales interactions with transparent pricing
Leveraging the Voice of the Customer to Drive Experience
Non-Tesla buyers in our survey felt the need to do more research using more sources before going to a dealership, perhaps signaling their need to feel armed with the knowledge to ensure they will make a deal they will not look back upon with regret.
Perficient Research Reveals Flaws in the EV Customer Journey
We surveyed more than 1,000 EV and non-EV owners to learn about their car-buying preferences. The results showed issues with the current buyer journey that OEMs need to address to accelerate EV sales.
There are also generational factors at play in car ownership plans. For example, members of Gen Z are accustomed to ride-sharing apps and the sharing economy. Pairing that with their cautious approach to using credit and limited discretionary budgets and enticing these buyers will be particularly challenging through traditional car buying experiences.
Understanding generational, regional, and other differences is critical to creating the kinds of experiences that meet buyers where they are, and speak to them through messaging, pricing, and education to drive them to convert on a car purchase.
Key Learning for Dealers and Auto Makers:
To get these insights, a multi-modal voice of the customer research program, leveraging analytics and qualitative and quantitative data gathering is critical. Leveraging the data to enable personalization across channels and differentiate journeys by buyer values and motivations will create engaging and successful sales experiences.
From Dealerships to Showrooms
A critical difference between traditional dealerships and Tesla Showrooms is the in-person experience.
One Tesla owner described the showroom experience as similar to walking into an Apple store with well-trained employees. “They’re very knowledgeable, especially about the tech in the car,” he said. “They knew all about the price points, and there was no need to talk to the manager.” Another Tesla owner said he liked the showroom experience because it offered customer support rather than a sales process.
In the traditional car buying process, interviewees described their experience as less enjoyable: “Striking a car deal is not fun because car salespeople are always trying to get you to pay more than you want to.” They described games being played by salespeople and lacking trust in the dealer representatives. One respondent said, “Sometimes the salesmen just do not listen to you, and you’re often pushed into something that you don’t want to see or sometimes can be a waste of your time.”
One critical factor in that difference is Tesla’s disruptive model, which promotes online sales versus in-person sales. By the time someone arrives at a showroom, they’ve likely already spent time on the website and will also end up purchasing online. Unlike a dealership’s traditional sales-centric model, showrooms allow customers to test drive and learn more about the car.
One customer in our study praised Tesla’s website as “phenomenal” and the best website he’s ever seen. “If they care that much about their website, that signals the level of effort overall,” he said. “You could do everything on the site except sit in the car.”
Tesla’s app allows full vehicle customization, home charging, financing, and insurance selection with clear steps and pricing transparency. Once the EV is delivered, it lets users configure charging, control costs, and even warm up the battery remotely.
Key Learning for Dealers and Auto Makers:
Developing technology to demystify pricing, simplify processes and paperwork, and provide a personalized, modern experience removes barriers to purchase.
Customer satisfaction with the Tesla experience signals ways for dealers and manufacturers to regain EV market share. Enabling personalized, transparent experiences is a way to close the gap.
Electric Vehicle Customer Journey Research