It's that time again: time for J.D. Power's annual Sales Satisfaction Index Study, which measures customer satisfaction at dealerships across the U.S. Last year, Lexus and MINI dealers came out on top. Did they fare as well as 2013?
For MINI, the answer was a resounding "yes". After all the scores had been tallied from the Power's 29,040 respondents, MINI averaged an impressive 718 points (out of a possible 1,000). That put MINI at the top of the mass-market category for the fourth year in a row.
The first runner-up was Buick, at 694 points. Chevrolet, GMC, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Fiat, Honda, and Toyota also scored above the mass-market average of 666 points.
At the bottom, it was all Chrysler. The Chrysler brand clocked in at 649, Dodge at 638, Jeep at 630, and bringing up the rear, Ram, with 626 points. It's possible that Mitsubishi or Smart performed worse, but neither was included because of their small sample size.
In the luxury category, Jaguar eked out a slim win, earning an average of 740 points -- one tick above Porsche's 739. (Jaguar wasn't ranked in 2012 due to the small number of Jaguar shoppers who responded.) Last year's #1, Lexus, came in third with a respectable 737. Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz were the only other brands to score above the luxury average of 718 points.
In the bottom berth, we find Volvo (708 points), Land Rover (706), Acura (705), and last but not least, Lincoln (692).
And just so you know, Tesla wasn't included in the luxury rankings because of its small sample size. Hopefully, that'll change soon: we're very interested to see how Tesla is faring on the satisfaction front given its unusual sales model, which depends heavily on shopping mall galleries and a controversial website.
On the whole, automakers seem to be paying much more attention to customer service than they have in the past. In 2013, the average satisfaction score for all dealerships was 673, nine points above 2012.
Also of note: customers love using gadgets during the sales process. Among Power's more interesting discoveries: satisfaction with the negotiation portion* of the sales process rose dramatically when staff used electronic devices to display pricing and payment options. When that information was shown on a tablet or computer, the average score clocked in at 833. When it was shown on a computer printout, however, the score fell to 820. Verbal quotes earned scores of 792, and oddly, hand-written quotes had satisfaction scores of just 780.
And yet, just 10 percent of dealers appear to use tablets. Seems like there's plenty of room for improvement, no?
* To determine its scores, Power divides dealerships into two groups: dealerships where customers purchased their vehicles, and dealerships that customers visited but ultimately left empty-handed. Though Power didn't thoroughly explain its 2013 methodology, in previous years the firm asked shoppers to rank "purchase" dealerships on the basis of the salesperson, the facility, the negotiation process, and delivery of the vehicle. Dealerships that were rejected by consumers have typically been scored on the basis of the salesperson, the fairness of the vehicle's price, the facility, available inventory, and the negotiation experience. In each area, dealers are assigned scores that range from 0 to 1,000.