Earlier this week, we talked about the many ways that dealers can ruin the customer experience -- often by hounding consumers for good ratings on surveys and social media sites. No matter how you feel about such surveys, there's no denying that one of the most important is J.D. Power's just-published 2014 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study.
Power's Sales Satisfaction Index ranks auto brands according to shoppers' in-store experience. For the 2014 study, Power fielded responses from 29,805 Americans who either bought or leased a new car in April or May 2014. (Surveys were distributed between July and September 2014.)
The Sales Satisfaction Index Study not only examines how well shoppers like the dealerships where they buy or lease their rides, it also examines what they dislike about the dealerships they avoid. In the case of the former, dealers are evaluated on four factors:
- Working out the deal
- The salesperson
- The delivery process
- The facility
Dealers that shoppers avoid or reject are scored on the basis of:
- The sales staff
- The fairness of prices
- The negotiation experience
- The variety of inventory
- The facility
Consumers assign scores in each of those areas on a scale ranging from 0 (terrible) to 1,000 (superb).
Satisfaction across all dealerships improved by 13 points this year, with luxury and mass-market brands averaging 686 points vs. 2013's 673. Perhaps not surprisingly, the average among luxury brands was much higher, at 734. Mass-market brands averaged a score of 678.
Mercedes-Benz earned top honors among luxury marques with a score of 761, which is 33 points above its 2013 average. European and Asian brands Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, and Porsche rounded out the top five, with all scoring above the luxury average. As you can see from the chart above, Acura scored lowest among luxury brands, with an average of 711 points. That put it well below the next-to-last-ranked Land Rover, which received a score of 722.
MINI came out on top of the mass-market heap, with a score of 727 -- nine points higher than 2013. American and quasi-American brands dominated the rest of the top five, with Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, and Fiat coming in behind MINI. (It's worth noting that Buick's score is an impressive 32 points higher than last year.) Ford also landed above the mass-market average, with a total of 680 points.
At the other end of the mass-market scale, Mitsubishi finished dead last, with 631 points. Ram came in next-to-last, at 633. (Apart from Fiat, all of Chrysler's brands fell below the mass-market average). Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Scion, and Kia didn't fare so well, either.
Power noted two dealer practices that resulted in consistently higher scores from consumers:
1. Using product specialists. It's increasingly common for dealers to make use of specialists on the sales floor who can help sales staff explain certain features, like complicated infotainment systems. As Power's Chris Sutton notes, "With such tech-heavy vehicles today, introducing product specialists into the sales process helps improve the delivery process and customer understanding of how to operate key features".
2. Using tablets. When sales staff use tablets or computer monitors to explain pricing and payment schedules, "working out the deal" scores average 827. When that information is printed, scores average just 805. When details are shared verbally, scores dip to 774, and when they're handwritten, they fall further to 764. Bottom line: dealers should invest in screens.
How do J.D. Power's scores compare with your own dealer experiences? Have you received consistently awful or awesome service from any particular brand? Share your thoughts in the comments below.