No Pressure, No Love.... It is a fine line

No Pressure, No Love.... It is a fine line

The feeling of revolt associated with dealing with auto dealerships is almost universal. I did have one rather twisted friend that enjoyed running dealer salesmen around in circles well after he had made up his mind but most people I know dread any interaction with their dealer.

Tesla is attempting to address this by "going Apple" with the boutiques and information specialists. In most cases, there is zero pressure to purchase which, in theory, is great. My question is- Is the no pressure thing being taken too far by the front line?

I've given a bunch of demo rides (and drives) with a good number of those people making it by the Tesla store to take a look. More than one has commented on the almost lackadaisical approach Tesla personnel have to people actually wanting to buy the car. I have been told that, in some cases, it is almost like they do not care. It has turned off more than one of people that I've sent to the store.

This appears to be a very fine line and perhaps some with more experience in retail psychology than I have can chime in here. People do not like being pressured into buying. By the same token, I know I like to feel like my order is important to the vendor. I'm not talking discounting but more a general feel that my business is appreciated. I think that is what some of my referrals are finding lacking.

RZippel | August 5, 2013

I think it is reasonably clear that "demand generation" is not a Tesla problem. As Elon stated several times, it is scaling production up. That reflects on the way that KPIs are set for the sales force. The localization for the European markets increases the production complexity.

Sometimes I tend to read out of Elons mission statement that solar powered mobility, not necessarily the success of Tesla as a company, is his prime goal. At Teslive it sounded almost like he would be relieved that after sparking the development, the established car producers with experience how to scale and localize, would take that burden from him. But maybe that drives the interpretation to far. And, they don't do it anyway. So Tesla needs to lead for some more time to come.

It might still be the Alta-Vista or Yahoo, not the Google of eMobility if you know what I mean...

P.S. I was urged to order but only to find out that I avoided a price increase and in addition will get more company car tax benefit in Germany. So I can't complain.

lolachampcar | August 5, 2013

Please do not take my OP as any type of complaint. I was more scratching my head with respect to retail sales. People will tell you they want one thing then, when you give it to them, they seem to want something else.

Perhaps it is just human nature to want to find some kind of fault with things.

One thing is for certain, it is very hard to find fault with the product.

carlk | August 5, 2013

No pressure? After they took a look at the car? ;) I think the car sells itself.

Tesla does not do commercial either probably for the same reason.

AmpedRealtor | August 5, 2013

I will say that this has been the best experience I've had purchasing a car (arriving 8/15), however I am also more of an online shopper. Even though I work in property sales, I loathe car salesman because they give sales a bad name. They rarely know enough about the product they are selling to be valuable there, and just end up being a pain. Car salespeople also are not empowered to do anything without permission from their manager, so let me deal with the manager then - why are you even here? LOL

I am a big Apple fan and love how they do things. Tesla was a natural fit for me, ordering my Model S was as painless as ordering my iPhone. Big difference in price, but the process was simple and straightforward. I would guess that most people would not like doing it this way. I am a strange duck. I haven't even test driven the car and hope to be surprised when I take delivery on 8/15. For me it's like unwrapping a very expensive present... :) | August 5, 2013

lolachampcar +1

I always look forward to your posts ---- as they are the most insightful in these forums.

Beautifully thought out and written.

StefanT | August 5, 2013

I have been puzzling the same question. I appreciate the no pressure sale but I also got the feeling from store personnel that I had purchased just another ipad. I had wondered if the age of the Tesla personnel results in some disconnection in the magnitude of the purchase. I noticed that my 18 year old daughter knows the numerical difference in cost between a Scion and the Model S but I am not sure she appreciates it. Given a choice between ambivalence with ordering online or having to interact with salespeople from a dealership, I'll take the Tesla approach.

wolfpet | August 5, 2013

My first experience with a local Tesla store a few months ago was unique and eye opening. I did so much homework and followed both forums closely for quite some time prior to my visit. Still, I had some remaining questions and I didn't really expect to get them answered in the store, by, you know, a car salesman ;-)

To my surprise they far exceeded my expectations. The deep knowledge of the product, very professional attitude and no dealership B/S definitely contributed to my purchase decision, so yeah, I like this model more and I'm not concerned much about the lack of effort to "close".

BTW, My second visit was even better. I was offered a test drive, which was completely unexpected. Looks like they felt my intentions were serious enough. And they were right: I signed right away ;-)

cloroxbb | August 5, 2013


They aren't even supposed to be "salespeople" they are just supposed to be SMEs (Subject Matter Experts).

I think it is a much better way to go, because every single dealer I have ever went to either gave me incorrect information, or didn't have much knowledge on the vehicle I was test driving. Especially true on EV/Hybrids.

I took a test drive of a Volt, and the "salesman" didnt know much about it. I even made a comment that I was going to plug it in to a 220 Volt outlet, and he made a comment that it would "probably ruin the battery.." Makes you realize that Elon seems correct that dealers have zero incentive to sell EVs.

Just my opinion.

TeslaOR | August 5, 2013

My experience was the same as lola. I had the car reserved and down payment completed months before I walked into the retail store. So I did not need any pressure, but I felt the retail staff lacked any enthusiasm for the product. I chalked it up to too many tire kickers.

The DS guy was the exact opposite. Very proud of the car he was delivering. He couldn't stop showing off all the cool features.

Colasec | August 5, 2013

>>More than one has commented on the almost lackadaisical approach Tesla personnel have to people actually wanting to buy the car. I have been told that, in some cases, it is almost like they do not care. It has turned off more than one of people that I've sent to the store.

I spoke to one of the Fashion Island employees about this sense of aloofness. He explained that the mall location means that nearly everyone who walks in is just lightly browsing and not actually interested. I know it doesn't excuse the lack of attention, but I can see how it would be tiring to try to be excited and enthusiastic about the car over and over again when talking to "customers" who don't actually care that much either and who are just taking a quick look before they resume shopping at the mall.

lolachampcar | August 5, 2013

I am not advocating pressure of any kind and am likewise a fan of the Tesla approach.

I think my curiosity comes from knowing more than one of the people I sent down to the store were capable of writing a check for the car and were enthusiastic about buying one. They may very well follow through and buy the car (actually, one did) but it just seemed like a lost opportunity.

I guess I am wondering out loud if there is some level of interaction with potential buyers that is not "selling" or "hard selling" but still facilitates that potential buyer actually buying the car. (not sure that made much sense)

wolfpet | August 5, 2013


I hear you. It's probably hard to come up with a solution to motivate store employees without providing any incentive pay. But we don't want them to act like car salesmen either. Not sure if there is a middle ground. I wonder if Apple rewards their store staff somehow.

ironmikeii | August 5, 2013

Showing real interest in the product and declaring I was a likely buyer generated normal sales like behavior. Store manager called me up three weeks later and asked me how I was coming along with my purchase decision.

Not quite the same as typical new car dealer, but I could definitely detect a motivation to "make a sale".

StefanT | August 5, 2013

Not that I am keen to reference the Motley Fool but I remember in the winter a bell shaped curve for the technology adopter life-cycle. I wonder if these potential lost sales are the fringes of the mainstream market. As early adopters we were scrambling to get our hands on the car regardless of what the Design Center personnel said to us. Maybe the mainstream markets need a sales approach that is a bit more familiar to them. It will be interesting to watch Tesla adjust as it attracts more of the market.

ian | August 5, 2013

I think this is already starting to change. I remember reading a report here about someone getting more pressure than they anticipated and that they felt a bit awkward. I believe someone else reported that a store staff member confessed to them that they were keeping track of how many customers they had got to sign.

lolachampcar | August 6, 2013

I think you are spot on. It is an incredibly fine line between a supportive enthusiastic salesperson who is not dealer pushy. Perhaps it is like finding a good teacher. You really can describe it to a T but you know it when you find it.

I think this is why I was never responsible for sales. As a Swedish buddy of mine would say "Never use a goat as a gardener" :)

lolachampcar | August 6, 2013

can not

redacted | August 6, 2013

A brilliant bit of reverse psychology on Tesla's part: People tend to resist pressure. Take away the pressure and people drive themselves on. Be helpful, effusive, knowledgeable, but don't push the person to buy. They might walk out when they run out of questions (I did) but then walk back in five minutes later and order (I did).

The Oak Brook, IL showroom offered to take an order for me, by the way.

It's the Apple Store model all the way. And it works brilliantly.

ChristianG | August 6, 2013

Well I never really had problems with any dealerships. I only bought one car, and it was painless in all directions. I was fascinated by the prius, I testdrove it, talked to the sales guys who gave quiet good advice. I slept over it, doublecheckt the price with another dealer, and then went to the dealership and signed the contract... Service was always friendly, they called me when a callback happend, they are even genualy interested in the Tesla I'll buy, without even trying to get me interested in the prius plug in or whatever... maybe europe has 'nicer' dealerships.

While all the personel of tesla I met were really nice, I too got very contradicting informations, especialy about the charging in europe. While the charging details were not final at the time I can't really blame them but just telling me something wasn't really helpfull either. So even if they are all in the same company the flow of information didn't seem to be so good.

Another thing was that I took a 2nd test drive after the amped tour. booking and all went really well, and I went there with the mindset of finalising if the test ride would be good. But I couldn't. I had to ride home and order it online. While this isn't really a bad thing I think it would have ben nicer going through the points and options together, get the contract, sign it.. done.

The next point is probably only a problem for me and 2 other guys on the world but I'm from a small country with border contracts with switzerland. So it's quiet logical for us to buy cars over switzerland as some guys with the roadster already did. But I got a contract from the neatherlands... Long story short, I had contact with a lot of nice people at tesla (and this isn't ment sarcastic) and it took over a month till I got the right contract.

While my problems were minor and will most likely not lead to a later delivery date, not all of this 'new' way of selling a car was painless and 'better'. Comming from europe ordering and waiting for a car doesn't feel really new either. So except my little country problem the experience was pretty much the same.

I'm writing this not so much for complaining about the way of tesla, but more to stick my neck out for some dealerships wich did a really good job and are far from the devil they are protraied here sometimes.

Brian H | August 6, 2013

Very interesting! I expect the ordering step will get smoother with time and practice. ;)

A few tips on English:
information does not have a plural
Switzerland: all country names are capitalized
Tesla: all company names are capitalized
Europe: all continent names are capitalized
especially: double ls
quite: not quiet (soundless)
Netherlands: capital, only one 'a'

lolachampcar | August 6, 2013

Your name is not Richard so please do not be a dick.

lolachampcar | August 6, 2013

Thank you for taking time to post in a non-native language.

AmpedRealtor | August 6, 2013

@ Brian H - wow, that was more than a little condescending.

bonaire | August 6, 2013

For the OP's note. At the Tesla store near me, when I visited this weekend, the guys had the same look in their eyes as amusement park ride operators loading in the 1040th familiy into the gondola for the day. Numerous people jumping in and out of the car, taking pictures, sometimes asking a question. They didn't look like they even wanted to be there. The one guy polishing the two Model-S in the "showroom" answered more questions than the two demo-dollie guys.

Being next to the Apple store means more traffic - but it also means 99% of the people in the store won't be buying, just jumping in and taking a poke at the 17".

earlyretirement | August 6, 2013

Great post lolachampcar. Personally I LOVE the direct to consumer business model. I'm the type of person that will buy just about anything I can on I'm a Prime member so I get free 2 day shipping on almost everything. And I live in San Diego and there is a distribution center in LA so I get many things literally overnight for free.

I love Apple products as well. I LOVE Apple's philosophy of exploring and getting to know the product before buying. And IF you buy, you can buy knowing that Apple will totally stand behind it. Case in point, I bought an expensive Retina loaded Macbook pro a few months ago. Well, I had 2 dead pixels on my screen. Barely noticeable but they were noticeable when I was watching movies. I went to an Apple store and I didn't have to even hassle with them. They said, your Macbook is in warranty and they put in a new $700 screen and I picked it up the next day.

Before starting the buying process with Tesla I was all for it. I even argued with friends that it was a better process. Quite honestly after going through the buying experience with Tesla, I can't say I'm for sure now.

My experience buying (at least in San Diego) is that the showroom seems to be hiring mostly college age or recent grads. Mostly females and many of them don't know too much about the cars. I asked several questions throughout the buying process and more times than not, they either didn't know the answer, or worse, they gave false or incorrect information.

At least with the traditional car salesman model, for the most part, these car salesman really needs to know his product and from my last two experiences buying (Audi and BMW) they did. They were very knowledgable and they knew their product well. Most of them had been selling it for many years.

I didn't really have to go through the run around with them as I used so the local dealers in the area were all fighting for my business.

Tesla needs to REALLY change the way they are doing things and their salesman, although they won't earn commissions, really needs to better understand the product and corporate communication overall needs to greatly improve so that the "right hand" knows what the "left hand" is doing.

What Tesla needs to realize is the customers are the most important aspect of their success. And a BIG part of that success will be improved communications.

ChristianG | August 6, 2013

is Roadster written a capital 'R' because it's the name of car model?

I know I should care more about spelling, but then this

proofs it's not necessary :P Or I'm just too used to my bad spelling. DOH!

Mark2131@CA-US | August 6, 2013

"99% of the people in the store won't be buying, just jumping in and taking a poke at the 17"."

What's that old saying about stock car racing??? "Poke on Sunday, buy on Monday!"

Brian H | August 6, 2013

Yes. The Roadster, as a Tesla Model, is capitalized, but the general term, referring to a type of car, is not. In general, all names formally given to anything or anyone are capitalized.

my experience, both as a learner of foreign languages and dealing with ESL speakers, is that hints and guidelines from a native speaker are gratefully received. MYOB.

dfu102 | August 6, 2013


Very similar experience at the San Diego (UTC) store this past weekend. The young Tesla personnel did not seem to have a lot of product knowledge, and I was kind of surprised and at the same time disappointed that I might know more than them about the car and the buying process. Also at times I felt as if they were reading from a script, but didn't understand what the words meant. If I was at a regular car dealership I won't have expected anything at all, but I guess I had higher expectations for Tesla.

earlyretirement | August 6, 2013


Yep. I don't live far from the UTC store and have been in dozens of times since it opened. I really think Tesla needs to change their game plan on training and also hiring.

They could do simple things like making new employees have requirements to read this forum and others and also give them simple random tests to see what they know. What Tesla needs is NOT just "warm bodies" that they pay by the hour regardless if they know or care anything about the car or not but find employees that are passionate about the brand, passionate about the technology and passionate about the vision of the company and actually know more about it vs. the general public.

All IMHO. None of this is rocket science but sometimes a company just needs to go back to the basic of common sense customer service. It reminds me quite a bit of the early Paypal days. They were truly horrible with customer service and didn't even have a phone number on their website!

Elon needs to really think about their communications and customer service with their valuable customers. They need to under promise and over deliver.

lolachampcar | August 7, 2013

Speaking from personal experience, we engineers have a hard time with piddly details like documentation (and perhaps sales?).

Colasec | August 7, 2013

Perhaps the best thing to do would be to compose a concise, well-written email sharing our experiences and making a few suggestions and send it to the appropriate Tesla bigwig?

Colasec | August 7, 2013

('cause we can commiserate and brainstorm all we want here but it's not gonna change anything...)