Find a Car

The Best Brands -- And The Worst -- For Shopping Experience

Follow Richard

There are a lot of ways to measure customer satisfaction. J.D. Power talks to recent buyers. Polk looks at sales stats and customer retention. But the folks at Pied Piper do it the old-fashioned way: with secret shoppers. 

Between July 2011 and June 2012, Pied Piper hired 4,419 secret shoppers to visit dealerships across the U.S. The shoppers scored each sales pitch on 60 different criteria: were they offered a brochure? Were they given a walkaround demo of the vehicle? Did the salesperson discuss financing options? And so on.

Now, Pied Piper's data has been tallied, and the firm has released its 2012 Prospect Satisfaction Index (aka the "PSI"). Overall scores soared, proving that dealers and their teams have taken previous critiques to heart. Fran O’Hagan, Pied Piper's President and CEO, said that “This year’s record high PSI results show that today’s dealership employees work harder than ever to be helpful to car shoppers”.

The winners

Not surprisingly, luxury automakers sit at the top of Pied Piper's PSI list. Mercedes-Benz took top honors, with an average dealership score of 109. It was followed closely by Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus at 108, and Jaguar at 107. 

Cadillac showed up at a respectable 106, followed by mass-market manufacturers like Fiat, Honda, Ram, Toyota, and Volvo. 

And landing at the industry average of 105 were BMW, Buick, GMC, Lincoln, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Volkswagen.

Nearly all of the aforementioned automakers received higher scores this year, with the exception of Jaguar, which was flat. 

The rest

Just below the industry average, we find Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Land Rover, MINI, and smart at 104. Dodge, Hyundai, and Scion landed at 103, and Audi, Jeep, Kia, and Porsche came in at 102.

Bringing up the rear: Suzuki at 99 and Mitsubishi at 97. However, both made marked improvements over 2011, with Suzuki up five points and Mitsubishi up six. Smart was also up six.

Very few brands slid in the PSI scores. Land Rover fell one point, as did Hyundai. And Audi, Kia, and Porsche each shaved two points off their total score. 


Keep in mind that these scores are averages taken from dealerships across the country, so your local dealer may be better (or worse) than these rankings suggest.

What keeps you going back to your favorite dealer? Did you have a particularly good experience there? Or did you simply have a particularly bad experience somewhere else? Feel free to drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

Follow Us

Comments (3)
  1. Stuff like this is kind of pointless. For example, if I already did my research, the last thing I want is a walkaround of the car.

    Personally, I'd like to see data surrounding the negotiation process. Did the dealer try to tack on an additional markup? Aggressively upsell non-factory items ranging from aftermarket wheels and tires to useless paint and interior protection packages? Was it fair with an initial offer on the purchase price of the car and a trade if there was one?

    Dealers are dealers. Some see their job as separating you from as much of your money as possible. Some are nice about it with walkarounds first. Others try blunt force trauma. Either way, they're all cut from the same cloth.

  2. "Either way, they're all cut from the same cloth".

    They have to be if they choose this profession and or want to keep their job. Just like our politicians :-)

  3. Saw a car I liked at a car dealership my son was less than fond of. We lifted the hood to discover a missing master cylinder cap. That just made his misgivings more legitamate. We went to another dealer and found a car we were very pleased with, so we bought it. One month or so later, the first dealer bought out the dealer who sold me the new car. The joke was on me. Much to his credit, the buyer has created a very good service experience. I'm still not sure, however, that I would want to buy from him.

Commenting is closed for old articles.
© 2015 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.