J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Findings Released

Chris Teague | Nov 10, 2021

It's a tough time to be a car shopper. New-vehicle inventory shortages are the norm thanks to supply chain disruptions, making it tough to find the right vehicle at a fair price. Despite that, the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study shows that overall sales satisfaction remains steady from 2020 at 789 on a 1,000-point scale.

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J.D. Power released results from the latest new-vehicle sales satisfaction study today. This year's study shows that new-car buyers gravitate toward brands that have vehicles to sell and that the dealership experience truly matters. According to the study, shopper satisfaction gets a boost from the increase in trade-in values, but other parts of the sales experience tumbled in scoring from last year's study. Inventory-related satisfaction with dealers' websites drops 14 points, and scores for dealership facilities decrease by 16 points.

Highlights from this year's study include:

  • Buyers that can't find the model they want move on to another automaker. This is especially true for truck brands, where shoppers quickly turn to companies with vehicles for sale. Percentages of buyers leaving brands include:
  • Uneducated dealer-level employees harm satisfaction with the sales experience. The lack of knowledge about electric vehicles (EVs) is a significant factor in customers' dissatisfaction with them compared to cars with internal combustion engines. The study finds that buyer satisfaction is 54 points lower for EVs than gasoline-powered cars, due mainly to dealership personnel's lack of expertise.
  • Buyers who shop remotely are more satisfied than those that make a trip to the dealer. The convenience and ease of shopping for a car remotely outweigh the desire to see and feel a product in person for many buyers.
  • While included but not officially ranked in the study, Tesla earns an SSI score of 815—an increase from the unofficial score of 804 it earned last year. The automaker does not allow J.D. Power to survey owners in 15 states, so its score is an unofficial reading taken from the 35 states where its owners participate in the survey.

Among premium brands, Porsche ranks highest with a score of 833. Infiniti (825) ranks second, Lexus (820) is third, and Cadillac (814) is fourth. GMC ranks highest among mass-market brands with a score of 812. Buick (806) is second, and Chevrolet (804) is third. Dodge and Nissan complete the top five with scores of 796 and 795, respectively. The most-improved brand for 2021 is Jeep, whose score increases by 24 points. Chevrolet and Dodge both increase their scores by 17 points.

J.D. Power bases its buyer satisfaction scores on six factors (in order of weight/importance):

  • Delivery process: 28%
  • Dealer personnel: 21%
  • Working out the deal: 19%
  • Paperwork completion: 19%
  • Dealership facility: 10%
  • Dealership website: 4%

As part of the SSI Study, J.D. Power also asks buyers about the brands they shopped but ultimately did not purchase. Satisfaction among those that rejected a particular brand is based on five factors:

  • Salesperson: 40%
  • Price: 23%
  • Facility: 15%
  • Variety of inventory: 12%
  • Negotiation: 10%

The 2021 SSI Study includes 35,387 verified new-vehicle buyers who purchased or leased a new vehicle between March and May 2021. J.D. Power notes that 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 looks at satisfaction with brands and dealers that were rejected.

J.D. Power is the source of information for this article. It was accurate on November 10, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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