Have you bought a new car lately? How satisfied were you with the process? If you drove home a Buick or Porsche, you're likely to say "very satisfied", according to a new study from J.D. Power.
The study in question is the 2016 Sales Satisfaction Index, which "measures the ability of dealerships to manage the sales process, from product presentation and price negotiation to the finance and insurance process and final delivery".
To make those measurements, Power polled 28,979 new-car buyers and lessees between July and September 2016. Respondents were asked to rate not only the dealerships where they bought or leased their vehicles, but also those shops where they chose not to do business. Combined, those result help explain what's attractive to consumers and what really turns them off.
Study participants were asked to rate dealerships in nine key areas. At dealerships where vehicles were purchased or leased, consumers assigned scores ranging from 0 to 1,000 on:
- working out the deal
- the salesperson
- the delivery process
- the facility
As for dealerships that didn't win a respondent's business, scores were assigned to:
- the salesperson
- fairness of price
- the negotiating experience
- the facility
- the variety of the dealer's inventory
The Sales Satisfaction Index offers some great insights for dealers and automakers alike. Though it's technically focused on dealerships, the way that consumers view the sales process affects their view of brands, which can affect future sales. Here are some of the key findings from this year's study:
1. Technology can be troubling: Mechanically speaking, today's cars, trucks and SUVs are all fairly sturdy and well-made. The biggest problems that consumers often have with new vehicles are related to dashboard technology like Bluetooth pairing and navigation. Those problems give owners big headaches and cause brands to tumble in initial quality rankings.
To address such issues, a growing number of dealerships are hiring product specialists. Specialists aren't sales personnel; their job is to make sure that customers understand the technology found in the new vehicle that they've bought or leased.
Though specialists have a fairly small effect on the sales experience (consumers who interacted with specialists ranked their experience about seven points higher on Power's 1,000-point scale), they can have a huge impact on whether drivers are happy with their new rides: consumers who find their in-car tech difficult to use are likely to rank their satisfaction 98 points lower than those who don't.
2. Don't cut the land line just yet: Most of us are now used to shopping online, but in the auto world, phones remain an important tool. Power found that 42 percent of respondents called a dealership to discuss pricing and inventory, and their satisfaction scores were higher than those who didn't call (835 vs. 823).
3. Unsurprisingly, sales staff are crucial to satisfaction: When Power asked respondents about how well sales personnel worked out their deals, they wanted to know whether staffers gave straight answers, whether they pressured customers, and whether they tried to push additional products on shoppers. In dealerships where staff were direct and not pushy, satisfaction scores were 35 points higher--sometimes more.
No doubt about it: General Motors was the big winner in the 2016 Sales Satisfaction Index. All four of its brands earned top scores.
In the mass market category, Buick took the gold with a score of 809. MINI nabbed the silver at 797, followed by Chevrolet at 789 and GMC at 786.
In the luxury category, Porsche earned top marks with a score of 824. Infiniti came in second with 815, and Mercedes-Benz landed third with 809. BMW and Cadillac tied for fourth place with scores of 807.