Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has received loads of glowing praise, but new research indicates its efforts to disrupt traditional dealer networks could hurt it in the eyes of some prospective buyers.

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Details come from The Car Connection, which looked at the latest study by research firm Pied Piper, and breaks down the metrics. Dubbed the Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI), it involved over 6,000 mystery shoppers evaluating dealership visits to major manufacturer's dealers, and found Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Lexus, MINI, and Toyota to be the top performers.

Tesla came in dead last—behind even perennial also-ran Mitsubishi.

2015 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index

2015 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index

The rub, of course, is that Tesla's doesn't operate dealerships in the traditional sense. In fact, its direct-to-customer approach has brought it into conflict with states like Texas and Michigan, which require manufacturers to sell through dealers—it only recently won the right to sell cars in New Jersey. So being able to give straight answers to questions about pricing—Tesla employees will refer customers to its website—and allowing test drives simply isn't on the table everywhere, making the comparison to traditional luxury showrooms an apples to oranges deal.

Now, if Tesla loses in comparisons to traditional dealerships, when it isn't trying to conform to the traditional dealership model, has it really lost? We don't think so. The same study in 2014 also put it in last place, yet 98 percent of current Model S owners would buy the car again.

So Elon Musk probably isn't losing any sleep over Pied Piper's findings just yet. But if he addresses its report, we'll let you know.


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