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The Treatment of Customers is Still King in Auto Sales

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author photo by Autotrader December 2010

What seals the sale at car dealerships today? 52 percent of those who buy or lease a new car base their final decision on dealer treatment says J.D. Power and Associates, while just 38 percent of them base their purchase on the deal they were able to get.

Called the “2010 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study,” J.D. Power’s metric analyzed 25,244 new-vehicle buyers who purchased or leased in May 2010. Pointing out that new vehicle sales are still sluggish and that manufacturers are investing considerable money in incentives, J.D. Power feels that the dealership experience is paramount for auto sales right now. Further, the study found that dealerships who left a sour taste in consumers’ mouths drove them not only to other dealers but to a different brand altogether.

Years ago, Saturn proved the wisdom of a positive dealer and brand experience with their revolutionary no-haggle sticker prices and wildly popular reunions in Spring Hill, Tenn., where Saturns were once assembled. Even after Saturn’s designs became dated and the cars were less competitive, Saturns sold well for many years, a testament to the positive dealer experience.

Hyundai scored with buyers, too, offering an industry-first 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and, more recently, a worry-free purchase guarantee that allowed vehicle returns if buyers fell on hard times. Indeed, of all mass market brands, Hyundai was the most improved in J.D. Power’s SSI Study, having moved from 16th place in 2009 to seventh in the 2010 study.

Other top performers (those ranking above average) in the mass-market (non-luxury) category were Mini, at number one, followed by Mercury, GMC, Chevrolet, Buick, Ford, Hyundai, Chrysler, Suzuki, and Kia.

Among luxury brands ranking above average in the study, Jaguar made the top score for the third year in a row for a pleasant new-vehicle buying experience. Next up were Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz who held their positions in second and third, respectively, from the 2009 study. Fourth through seventh were held by Lexus, Land Rover, Porsche, and BMW. Lincoln grabbed honors as the luxury brand most improved from its 2009 performance.

Though they’re understandably eager to move inventory, the message to dealerships is clear; roll out the red carpet for the customer. Even if prices are a touch higher than the dealer down the road, a smooth and friendly experience sells more cars. Conversely, just one bad experience is a losing proposition for both the dealer and the brand, driving buyers out of the showroom and often to another make.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Treatment of Customers is Still King in Auto Sales - Autotrader