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2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study: Auto Dealers That Embrace Technology Deliver a More Satisfying Sales Experience

2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study: Auto Dealers That Embrace Technology Deliver a More Satisfying Sales Experience

By Joseph Dobrian, November 13, 2015

Auto dealers who use devices such as tablets and computer displays during the sales process can substantially improve customer satisfaction among new-vehicle buyers, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study.SM

The study, now in its 29th year, measures satisfaction with the sales experience among buyers of new vehicles and rejecters—those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere. The study bases buyer satisfaction on four factors (in order of importance): working out the deal; salesperson; delivery process; and facility. Rejecter satisfaction is based on five factors (in order of importance): salesperson; fairness of price; experience negotiating; facility; and variety of inventory. The study measures satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale. In this year’s study, overall sales satisfaction improves to 688, from 686 in 2014.

“With retail vehicle sales in the United States in 2015 forecast to reach 14.2 million units, and this positive momentum expected to carry into 2016, dealers face challenges in properly servicing a high volume of new-vehicle buyers who are increasingly tech savvy,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “Dealerships should understand that customers want and trust technology and that it can enhance efficiencies. Dealers that disregard it may risk being left behind in 3-5 years. Customers are experiencing interesting uses of technology in many of their other retail transactions—and now expect this in auto.”

Gen Y[1] customers (defined by J.D. Power as those born between 1977 and 1994) account for 29% of new-vehicle retail sales, according to the Power Information Network® (PIN) from J.D. Power.

“There is every incentive for dealers to use the most effective tools available to satisfy customers and build a relationship with them during the initial purchase process,” said Sutton. “This relationship should translate quickly into future service business. Implementing tools and processes that meet the needs of Gen Y will ultimately benefit all consumers.”

One of the study’s key findings is that sales staff remains vital to the sales experience. The most impactful sales satisfaction key performance indicator (KPI)—best practice—is interacting with a salesperson who understands the customer’s needs completely. Such salespersons are good listeners, ask relevant questions, and are able to deliver on customer requests. This KPI demonstrates that even with the growing prevalence of online communications and emphasis on an efficient transaction, the individual salesperson still plays a key role.

The study also finds that five of the top 10 KPIs relate to working out the deal. These KPIs involve making customers feel comfortable—not pressured—and confident that they’re getting the most transparent and up-front information to aid their decision-making. Delivering on these best practices improves satisfaction and builds loyalty and advocacy.

Dealers who offer finance and insurance (F&I) products, such as extended warranties, pre-paid maintenance contracts, and tire/road hazard protection, can increase customer satisfaction. For example, among non-premium owners, satisfaction is 46 points higher when a dealer offers them a pre-paid maintenance contract vs. when they do not (788 vs. 742, respectively), and among premium buyers the gap is 26 points (827 vs. 801). Among Gen Y purchasers, 21% bought F&I products; so did 21% of Gen X purchasers, 20% of Boomers, and 20% of Pre-Boomers.

Sales Satisfaction Brand Rankings
Porsche ranks highest in sales satisfaction among luxury brands, with a score of 752, improving by 14 points from 2014. For a sixth consecutive year, Mini ranks highest among mass market brands, with a score of 762, a 35-point increase from 2014. For complete brand rankings, click here to see the press release.

Consumer Tips
Based on the study’s findings, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • Don’t hesitate to research the vehicles you’re interested in on the manufacturer’s and dealer’s websites before visiting the dealership. However, ask the salesperson to walk you through those websites at the dealership to ensure that you haven’t missed anything.
  • Work with a salesperson who has a reputation for being honest, informed, helpful, and mindful of the customer’s interests.
  • Ask the salesperson for guidance in purchasing F&I products, but be prepared to shop outside the dealership to ensure that you’re getting the best of such products.

About the Study
The 2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses from 27,831 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in April or May 2015. The study is a comprehensive analysis of the new-vehicle purchase experience and measures customer satisfaction with the selling dealer (satisfaction among buyers). The study also measures satisfaction with brands and dealerships that were shopped but ultimately rejected in favor of the selling brand and dealership (satisfaction among rejecters). The study was fielded between July and September 2015.

[1] J.D. Power defines generational groups as Pre-Boomers (born before 1946); Boomers (1946-1964); Gen X (1965-1976); Gen Y (1977-1994); and Gen Z (1995-2004).

Additional Research:

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