There is a very grey area in all of this since Pioneer began placing Elite products in the hands of distributors. Prior to the 7G plasmas, all Elite dealers purchased their products from Pioneer in Long Beach directly. With the 7G release, Pioneer restructured its dealers and how it sells to them. A small market dealer, such as myself, had their account "turned over" to a distributor authorized to sell Pioneer and Elite brand products to me as an authorized Pioneer and Elite retailer.
In theory, new dealers could be put on by the distributors, but only if they were approved by Pioneer-employed zone managers. New dealers who would qualify, according to my zone manager, needed to be able to properly display the Elite products, meet the associated demo and stock SKU requirements, and not be within a certain radius of an already active Elite dealer. Pioneer would obviously put on new dealers to purchase directly from them if they could also meet the annual volume of sales required to be a direct buying dealer.
Now here is where it gets funny. The distributors can sell Pioneer and Elite products to non-authorized dealers, but they will invoice the products and assign the serial number to an authorized account. The unauthorized dealer actually pays for the product and it is sent to them, but the authorized dealer is given credit for it on Pioneer's dealer records. This is one of the ways in which Pioneer and Elite brand products find their way into the websites of "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Best Audio/Video Solutions, Inc." With this unethical practice, the serial number is attached to an authorized retailer, but the product ends up in the warehouse of an unauthorized one. Then, of course, the unauthorized retailer sells it to you. That retailer is not authorized, and the product should not be covered by Pioneer's warranty; however, the serial number associated with that unit "belongs" to an authorized dealer. See where things can go a little wrong?
Then you have the backwards manner in which Pioneer handles their authorized dealer locator. If you are looking for a specific product, say a PRO-151FD, and you enter your zip code to find a store, the results will only show those authorized dealers who have actually had a PRO-151FD shipped to them within the last 90-days. After the 90-days that dealer falls off the locator as having that product even though they may actually have five of them in their warehouse.
The only way to be absolutely certain that anyone claiming to be an authorized dealer is actually one, go to Pioneer's website, and once at the find a store page, simply enter your zip code, or the zip code of the dealer you plan on purchasing from, without specifying a product category or product model. This manner will bring up every authorized Pioneer, Pioneer Elite, and Pioneer DJ dealer. Now the results won't filter by dealers with Elite products specifically, but that is what the phone is for. If you don't see that dealer listed, quite simply, they are not an authorized dealer.
Hope this helps clarify things a little.
"What's better? A great 2D movie or the worst 3D movie?" - Stephen Colbert