New-Vehicle Buyers Perceive Value in Extra Time Spent on Technology Demos

This year, overall satisfaction with the new-vehicle sales experience improves by 13 index points to an average of 648 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 635 in 2010, according to results in J.D. Power’s 2011 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, which is based on responses from more than 24,000 buyers and lessees who purchased their new-vehicle in May 2011.

A likely reason for the double-digit increase in satisfaction is that automakers and dealers are upping their investments and renewing their focus on providing buyers with a more satisfying retail experience. All four buyer factors* measured in the new-vehicle purchase process improve this year from 2010.

The most significant gain this year is in 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. We find that a major reason for the longer delivery process is the high percentage of buyers (88%) who said they received an in-depth demonstration of technology in their new vehicle (including audio, entertainment, navigation and communication systems), which results in more time spent at the dealership.

Even though technology demonstrations add time to the delivery process, those explanations substantially improve satisfaction, as well as customer loyalty. Buyers actually appreciate it when sales staff members spend additional time with them as long as the extra time provides added value.

In addition, the increasing proliferation of technology demonstrations may also help improve perceptions of new-vehicle quality. Our U.S. Initial Quality Studies (IQS) indicate that the rates of owner-reported problems with audio/entertainment/navigation technology systems have increased steadily between 2009 and 2011. Some of these perceived problems may stem from new-vehicle buyers’ inability to understand how to operate features. Therefore, technology demos provided by dealership sales staff can be a powerful tool in reducing problem rates and improving satisfaction with vehicle design. Jim Gaz, director of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates

* Among buyers, satisfaction is examined across four measures (listed in order of index weight): working out the deal (17%); salesperson (13%); delivery process (11%); and dealership facility (10%).

Note: The J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) StudySMmeasures customer satisfaction with the new-vehicle purchase experience at the dealer they purchased from (satisfaction among buyers) and also analyzes their experience with dealers they shopped, but ultimately rejected in favor of the selling brand and dealership (satisfaction among rejecters). Among rejecters, satisfaction is examined across five measures (listed in order of index weight): salesperson (20%); fairness of price (12%); facility (6%); inventory (6%); and experience negotiating (5%).

Lexus and MINI Rank Highest in Respective SSI Segment Rankings

Lexus, which earns a score of 715 (on a 1,000-point scale), ranks highest among luxury brands in satisfaction with the new-vehicle buying experience and MINI receives the highest score of 723 among mass market brands, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study.SM

Rounding out the highest-ranking five luxury brands in the 2011 U.S. SSI Study are: Cadillac (713); Mercedes-Benz (701); Porsche (696); and Land Rover (690). All are above the luxury brand average of 688. The two luxury brands that improve their rank positions the most in 2011 are Lincoln (up from 9th place to 6th) and Audi (up from 11th place to 9th).

In the mass market segment, BMW’s MINI brand ranks highest for the second straight year. MINI is followed by Buick (682); GMC (672); and Volkswagen (660). Chevrolet (655), Scion (655) and Subaru (655) tie for fifth place. The three mass market brands that improve their rank positions the most are Volkswagen (up from 13th place to 4th), Scion (up from 11th place to 5th), and Nissan (up from 18th place to 12th). Eleven mass market brands earn scores above the mass market average of 642.

For complete sales satisfaction rankings, please read the press release.


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