Tracey E. Schelmetic
Judging from the amount of publicity online vehicle retailers like Carvana get – and their popularity with a younger demographic group – people, in general, still want to an in-person dealer experience. Often, however, they’re not getting a good one. This is according to J.D. Power’s most recent U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, which was released this week. The study is based on responses from 28,867 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in April-May 2019. It measures satisfaction with the sales experience among new vehicle buyers and rejecters (those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere). The survey is broken down into two main categories: luxury and mass-market brands.
“While digital retail is on the rise, shoppers aren’t quite ready to adopt an Amazon-like business model when it comes to purchasing a vehicle; they still want to view inventory in-person and often rely on salespeople to explain how the vehicle technology works,” said Chris Sutton, VP of Automotive Retail at J.D. Power, in a statement.
The study found that 90 percent of buyers still visit dealerships during the shopping process. This is the good news. The bad news is that many dealers are losing sales before a customer even steps foot on their lot.
“If a new-vehicle shopper isn’t satisfied with the dealer website or facilities, they aren’t going any further in the sales funnel, and that sale is lost before a dealer can demonstrate how well it does everything else,” said Sutton. “Brands with the highest close-rate percentages are successfully delivering the experiences vehicle shoppers want.”
The study found that many dealers are still delivering poor online experiences. Respondents indicated that that nearly one in four shoppers who shop, but don’t ultimately buy from a dealer, reject that dealer before they even speak with a sales consultant at the dealership. These rejections are happening on the dealers’ web site.
In the ranking, Porsche claimed its fourth win in five years in the luxury category, with Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti coming in second and third, respectively. For mass-market brands, Buick finished on top for the third time in four years. GMC came in second and Mini came in third.