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2017 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study: Online Buyers Beware! Dealers Are Crucial Part of Vehicle Purchases

2017 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study: Online Buyers Beware! Dealers Are Crucial Part of Vehicle Purchases

By Joseph Dobrian, November 16, 2017

As the Digital Age has an increasing influence on retail shopping, a new J.D. Power study shows that when it comes to the car-buying experience, the personal touch still matters. The recently published J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index StudySM finds that even though new-vehicle shoppers tend to have more information than ever before, prior to beginning the purchasing process, it’s the pre-purchase interaction with the salesperson that leads to high sales satisfaction.

2017 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study“While customers are preparing themselves online with the best information and negotiation tactics, they still prefer to interact with a salesperson or product specialist prior to buying a vehicle,” said Chris Sutton, Vice President of the Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. “Dealers can’t control a customer’s pre-purchase activities, but they should be prepared to positively influence areas that will affect a customer’s likelihood to buy as well as their level of satisfaction. An example is to post photos of actual inventory to their website or engage with shoppers via text messaging or phone calls. Be sure that online specials are up to date and easy to access from the dealer’s site. These simple things go a long way toward earning a sale and satisfying a customer.”



According to the latest SSI Study, customers often rely on dealers to demonstrate new technologies, which seem to be proliferating faster than ever, and becoming more complex. According to the study, 41% of mass-market vehicle buyers and 33% of luxury-vehicle buyers want to completely learn about a vehicle’s features and controls during the delivery process. Additionally, 65% of shoppers who have a sales consultant show them how to use features on their personal smartphone say it was a “very effective” tool and subsequently are more confident using apps and websites for vehicle interaction and maintenance.

The study also shows that 80% of mass-market buyers and 87% of luxury buyers report having been contacted by the dealership following the purchase. However, only 32% of mass-market buyers and 51% of luxury buyers receive a second follow-up explanation of vehicle features. Dealers should note that that second follow-up improves satisfaction by as much as 100 points (on a 1,000-point scale) among both mass-market and luxury buyers.

Needless to say, dents, dings, and scratches upon delivery can make satisfaction dip dramatically: by an average of 198 points, according to the study.

Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Buick Rank Highest
Lincoln (for the first time in the history of the study) and Mercedes-Benz (for the first time since 2014) rank highest in sales satisfaction among luxury brands in this year’s study, each achieving a total satisfaction score of 830 out of 1,000. Infiniti ranks third with a score of 821, followed by Porsche at 818.

Buick ranks highest in sales satisfaction among mass-market brands for a second consecutive year, with a score of 808. Mini ranks second with 803; GMC ranks third with 793.

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

  • Make a list of new automotive technologies that interest you, and ask the dealer to explain and demonstrate them when you visit the showroom.
  • Make note of all specials that a dealership is currently advertising, on their websites or in other media, prior to visiting the showroom.
  • If a certain feature is especially important to you, compare that feature’s performance on various makes of vehicles.
  • Ask people whose opinions you respect to recommend individual dealerships and salespeople who have reputations for honesty, knowledge, and helpfulness.
  • Give priority to dealerships that have strong reputations for after-sale service.


About the Study
The Sales Satisfaction Index Study—now in its 31st year and redesigned for 2017—measures satisfaction with the sales experience among new-vehicle buyers and rejecters, who are those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere. Buyer satisfaction is based on six measures: dealer personnel (28%); delivery process (21%); working out the deal (18%); paperwork completion (16%); dealership facility (13%); and dealership website (4%). Rejecter satisfaction is based on five measures: salesperson (40%); fairness of price (15%); experience negotiating (15%); variety of inventory (15%); and dealership facility (14%).

The 2017 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study is based on responses from 28,989 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in April or May 2017. 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), and was fielded from July through September 2017.


Additional Research:


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