Car dealers earn higher marks on annual survey
Satisfaction with the new-vehicle sales process has improved notably from 2010, according to the 2011 edition of the Index.
Overall sales satisfaction averages 648 on a 1,000-point scale in 2011, improving by 13 points from an average of 635 from 2010.
All measures improve notably from 2010, with the greatest gain in the delivery process, despite the fact that the average length of time to complete the delivery portion of a new-vehicle sale has increased by four minutes to an average of 32 minutes in 2011 Overall, the average length of time a buyer spends at the dealership has increased by 11 minutes, to an average of 4.3 hours in 2011 from 4.1 hours in 2010.
A primary reason for the lengthened delivery process is the increasing proportion of buyers who are receiving more in-depth demonstrations of technology in their new vehicle, including audio, entertainment, navigation and communications features. Approximately 88 percent of buyers in 2011 say they received a technology demonstration at vehicle delivery, according to th survey.
"Although technology demonstrations add time to the delivery process, those explanations substantially improve satisfaction, as well as customer loyalty and advocacy," said Jim Gaz, director of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.
"It would intuitively seem that buyers are most satisfied when the sales process is completed in the shortest amount of time possible. However, buyers actually appreciate it when sales staff spends additional time with them, as long as that time provides them with added value."
Gaz said the increased technology demonstrations may also help improve perceptions of new-vehicle quality. The J.D. Power and Associates U.S. Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS) has found that rates of owner-reported problem incidence with audio/entertainment/navigation technology systems have increased steadily between 2009 and 2011.
Some of the “perceived” problems may stem from users not understanding how to operate features, so technology demos provided by sales staff can be a powerful tool in lowering problem rates and improving satisfaction with vehicle design, Gaz said.
The 2011 U.S.SSI was based on responses from 24,045 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in May 2011. The study was fielded between August and October 2011 and measured customer satisfaction with dealers. It also measures satisfaction with brands and dealerships that were shopped but ultimately rejected in favor of the selling brand and dealership.
Lexus ranks highest among luxury brands in satisfaction with the new-vehicle buying experience. Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz follow in the luxury-brand segment rankings. The luxury brands with the greatest improvement from 2010 are Lincoln, moving from ninth rank position to sixth, and Audi, which climbed from 11th to ninth.
MINI ranks highest among mass market brands for a second consecutive year. Buick and GMC, respectively, follow MINI in the mass market segment rankings. The mass market brands with the greatest improvement from 2010 are Volkswagen, which went from 13th to fourth, Scion, moving from 11th to fifth and Nissan went from 18th to 12th. By Joseph Szczesny