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Tesla's biggest problem is its customer service, according to a new Bernstein survey

Key Points
  • The annual survey of Tesla owners saw a higher percentage of respondents than last year say they "love" their Teslas.
  • The results suggest a wide addressable market for Tesla outside the luxury segment.
  • But customers report needing more service visits and a smaller percentage of customers describe the service experience as "excellent."
A Tesla car dealership in Munich. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Tesla owners still love their vehicles, and the electric automaker still beats out competitors, according to a new survey by research firm Bernstein. But the company's Achilles' heel is its customer service.

The annual survey, which questioned 2018 Tesla owners, saw a higher percentage of respondents than its last survey — 87 percent versus 2017's 85 percent — say they "love" their Teslas. More than two-thirds of Model 3 owners said they bought their Tesla to replace a "mainstream" car, suggesting a wide addressable market for Tesla outside the luxury segment.

But, "Tesla's service and customer experience remains a relative weak spot, with little improvement in most areas and deterioration in several metrics versus our survey results from 2017," Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi wrote in a note to clients published Monday.

Customers report needing more service visits, and a smaller percentage of customers describe the service experience as "excellent," according to the survey:

Only 42% of customers described their service center experience as "excellent," vs. 57% last time. Wait times for appointments have grown longer. Similar to our last survey, the service experience was especially weak outside the U.S. Perhaps most concerningly, recent service center users (those that had visited a center in the last 3 months) were less satisfied with their experience, experienced longer wait times for appointments, and had poorer rates of problem resolution — pointing to ongoing strain (and potential underinvestment?) in Tesla's service network.

Responses to Tesla's mobile service, where the company sends a technician to an owner's location, were more positive, with 70 percent of respondents rating the experience as "excellent."

Bernstein rates Tesla stock as market perform and projects a price target of $325, representing a 14 percent upside from current levels.

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