Two years ago, we looked at Google reviews to see how well Tesla-owned dealerships compare and contrast with the reviews of Tesla’s competitors. We chose to do our analysis in a state that allows Tesla to conduct its retail business in any manner it chooses. The surprising outcome was that Tesla scored lower than the traditional dealers. We decided to revisit the reviews two years later to see if Tesla’s locations had any change to their review averages and were again surprised. Tesla had declined, and many competitive brands had earned higher reviews over the same period.
Read the Prior Story: Shocker - Tesla's Dealerships Do Not Earn Higher Review Scores Than Traditional Brands’
There are many reasons we selected Massachusetts as an example state. The primary reason was that Massachusetts allows Tesla to conduct its retail business however it wishes. When Tesla was still in its infancy and decided not to use franchised independent dealers, Massachusetts was one of the first states to ignore its laws protecting dealers from manufacturers who wished to sell and service vehicles directly. For many years, Tesla has been free to do business in the state how it wants to. Tesla’s captive dealerships have all the same privileges that other franchised dealers enjoy, such as state sales tax exemptions granted only to authorized car dealers for trade-ins during car transactions.
How Does Tesla Operate Retail Locations In Massachusetts?
Tesla had two full-service “dealerships” in Massachusetts when we did our first analysis of the customer reviews. Both Dedham and Peabody sell and service vehicles. In addition, Tesla opted to run a service center in Watertown, Mass. (a nearby town). We also scored that location, but we made sure to explain it was not a full-service retail operation.
Tesla Review Scores Decline
Interestingly, both of the full-service Tesla dealerships had slight declines in their Google Review average scores over the past two years. The Peabody location dropped from a score of 4.5 to a lower score of 4.2. This was one of the largest moves of any dealership we analyzed. The Dedham location’s review average dropped from 4.3 to 4.2. The Watertown service center’s score remained the same at 4.4.
The Control Group
To provide contrasting examples to Tesla’s dealership scores, we looked at scores from nearby independent dealerships from other brands. In both Dedham and Peabody, car dealerships are clustered around one another. In fact, Dedham has earned the name “The Automile” since Route 1, running from Sharon, Mass. to Dedham, Mass., has a long line of dealers from almost every brand imaginable.
Other Brands’ Scores Went Up, While Tesla’s Went Down
Every brand but Tesla saw its Google Review rating average increase or remain unchanged over the same period. Our charts show the scores of each dealership in November of 2020 and now at the very end of August 2022. Lexus, Acura, Mazda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and BMW all saw scores increase slightly. Of all the brands we analyzed, only Tesla has a drop in score over the time frame.
Why are Tesla’s Dealership Reviews In Decline?
In addition to looking at the averages, we analyzed the last ten reviews posted at both the Dedham and Peabody locations. In Peabody, three of the ten reviews are 1-star reviews, and one is a 2-star. In Dedham, four of the ten reviews are 1-star reviews. Qualitatively, we noted that some of these scores include Google Local Guides (frequent reviewers).
One Google Local Guide posted a review that helped shed some light on why the Tesla Dedham location earned his low score. E.W. wrote, in part, “The only way to communicate with a service center is through an app. Sometimes they respond. Usually, they don't.” Another Tesla owner, reviewer E.G., echoed this dissatisfaction saying, in part, “Absolutely no communication between service and me. And what’s up with ONLY being able to text?” Tesla owner R.P. wrote, “Absolutely horrible customer service here. This place doesn't respond to you through the app, has no way to call them, and shows zero empathy.” R.T wrote of the Peabody location, “Worst customer service at this location. Absolutely horrible!!!!” H.D. said nearly the same thing two months apart, writing, “Worst customer service experience ever.”
What About Tesla Mobile Service?
Tesla is just one brand that will send a technician to your home to help you. Many Tesla fans point to this as a major advantage. Why even visit the Tesla locations? One reviewer, D.C., who tried to use the on-site Tesla service program commented directly on this, saying, "We made an appointment via the app as directed. It was a 5-hour window, and the technician never arrived, and Tesla didn’t communicate with us. When asked after the 5-hour window was up, they told us to reschedule via the app. So, now we wait another 2 weeks (the next available appointment) and see if the tech shows this time."
Author’s Own Experiences and Review Scores
I have personally visited all of the Tesla locations named in this story. I have visited both the Dedham and Peabody full-service locations as a shopper and provided 5-star reviews. The Peabody location initially was unresponsive to my calls or emails but seemed to spring to life later, so my initial low score was amended to be a very high score. I visited the Tesla Watertown location when it first opened to see what it looked like, but I was not a customer.
This snapshot of Tesla’s dealership model is far from perfect. Across America, traditional franchised dealerships enjoy incredible protection from automakers who wish to sell directly. The additional reasons Massachusetts was selected were that it is a wealthy state, was an early adopter state for EVs, is among the best states for EV chargers per registered EVs on the road, provides state EV subsidies directly to shoppers at the time of purchase, and is a ZEV state. Few other states in America are so supportive of EVs and also allow Tesla to operate its direct sales and service locations as it wishes.
Tell us in the comments below what you think of Tesla’s declining scores in light of its competitor’s rising scores.
Image of Tesla Peabody Massachusetts location by John Goreham. Image of (gas-powered) Tesla mobile support vehicle by John Goreham. Image of Tesla service area by John Goreham.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
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