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Cadillac dealers were ranked among the best in customer... Cadillac dealers were ranked among the best in customer satisfaction (GM).
It's Spring. Time to buy a new car. You pull up to the dealership driving your trade-in on a Saturday morning. You are met by an anxious, eager sales person whom you know is trained to try and close the sale that day. But you, the consumer, want to shop around and take your time. The more you resist an immediate deal, though, the deeper the salesperson digs into their toolbar to "close you."

Soon comes the dreaded, "What can I do to put you in this car...today?" It's a dance of trepidation that car buyers have long detested. What makes it all so daunting is that car salespeople do the negotiation every day. Consumers know they are better than they ever will be at it, as the typical car buyer only goes to the dealership once every four or five years.

But there is good news if you haven't been to a new-car showroom in a while: That high-pressure, unpleasant experience is becoming more the exception than the norm, except in dealerships where the calendar hasn't been flipped to the 21st Century. In fact, customers are increasingly satisfied and happy after visiting a dealership and buying a car, according to the most recent survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

Who are the best at keeping customers happy?

Lexus ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands for a second consecutive year, achieving an overall CSI score of 846 out of a possible 1000 points. Rounding out the top four nameplates in the premium segment are Jaguar (837); Cadillac (830); and Acura (828). Among luxury brands, Volvo and Porsche achieve the greatest improvements from 2010.

Among the "mass-market" brands, MINI ranks highest with a score of 805 and improves by 19 points from 2010. MINI performs particularly well in the vehicle pick-up and service quality factors. Also among the top 10 brands in the mass market segment are GMC (803); Buick (799); Chevrolet (792); Kia (784); Hyundai and smart, in a tie (783 each); Volkswagen (779); Ford (773); and Honda (765). Of mass market brands, Mazda and Suzuki achieve the greatest improvements from 2010.

Good news for consumers: satisfaction is likely to improve further. Why?

Automakers are investing more in training dealership personnel. Many dealerships handling U.S. brands are being shuttered, reducing the kind of "Ford dealer versus Ford dealer in the same city" competition that has long driven dealers to exert every high pressure and upselling tactic in the book. And consumers are so savvy about shopping on the Internet that they have almost all of the information ahead of time. They often have already negotiated the final price by e-mail, so the visit to the dealer is designed to close or end negotiation, not start it.

There is no mistaking an overall trend of happier car buyers and owners, said Jon Osborn, J.D. Power's research director. Adjusting for changes in the way Power actually computes the survey results 2007 to 2011, each year has been better than the previous one, he said. "Over time, dealers are providing much higher levels of customer satisfaction than they have in the past."

How are they doing it? Coffee bars. Free wireless Internet service. Online booking of appointments. Increasing the number of service bays and establishing longer hours to accommodate customers; some service departments staying open into the evening and on Saturdays. When it comes to selling the car in the first place? More communication online where the customer is more comfortable.

The goal is simple for dealers: As a customer switches on the ignition after a service appointment, they don't want him or her to worry about whether a repair was done correctly. And dealers want your experience to be comfortable, convenient and even upscale. They wouldn't mind it if you confused your time at the dealership with a visit to a spa or café.

In asking consumers about the process of buying a car, J.D.Power looks at consumers' attitudes toward their negotiations, their salesperson, the delivery process, and the dealership facility. Fully one-third of the score relates to the process of working out the actual deal. The questions in the study that relate to service weighs the quality of repair work completed more than other factors, such as the service adviser, the facility, or vehicle pick-up.

Osborn said improvements have been made across all dealership operations. "There isn't one area that has been improving drastically more than others. It's a little bit of everything."

Customers may find that the negotiations over price these day are going more smoothly than in the past. Car owners should also be seeing a trend of getting their cars in for service on the day that they call. And they should see much less "upselling" in the sales or service departments.

Upselling and having customers complain can seriously damage the service scores of a dealer, and cause them problems with the vehicle manufacturer, which often rewards dealership staff and salespeople for high satisfaction ratings with swag such as trips to Las Vegas or Florida, or even cash.
How would you describe your last dealership experience?
Pleasant 1096 (41.3%)
Mediocre 616 (23.2%)
Stressful 826 (31.1%)
Other 115 (4.3%)


Power says satisfaction scores soar from 642 out of 1000 points to 780 points if customers feel they have not have been pressured to buy more maintenance or repairs than they think they need.

Fewer dealers selling Motor City metal

Since General Motors and Chrysler went through Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2009, much has been reported about the companies using its bankruptcy protection to close dealerships the companies felt were under-performing or superfluous. Without that protection, dealers, even poorly performing ones, were hard to get rid of because of tough franchise laws state by state. Both companies had thousands more dealers than they needed today given their market share. The excess is a legacy from when Detroit held North of 60% of the U.S. auto market. Today, it is closer to 45%.

But as the number of dealerships is falling, service is improving. Weaker, older dealerships have closed, concentrating more business with the healthier ones. "The retail networks have improved over the years as the auto companies have cut some of the poorer performing dealers in both sales and customer satisfaction,"says Power's Osborne. Says Erin Kerrigan, senior vice president at Autostar, a real estate finance firm serving the auto retail market, "When businesses are run well and making money, they tend to serve their customers better."

It's working. With fewer dealerships overall, dealer profits in general are up 38 to 129 percent so far this year, according to Urban Science, an automotive retail consulting firm. It hasn't hurt that the demand for vehicles has picked up, too. On average, dealers are already selling more cars per store – an average of 656 in 2010 compared to 564 in 2009.

The reductions in dealers selling Detroit brands are putting those dealers on a par with their foreign-brand counterparts "which had been selling two to three times as many vehicles," said Randy Berlin, a global director at Urban Science.

With their dealerships on a better financial footing, Detroit-brand dealers have more money to invest in nicer stores, and can reward their sales-force for keeping customers happy rather than churning sales and service bills to keep up, Berlin said.

Lounges with plush sofas and cappuccino bars are sometimes part of the recipe.


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  • 64 Comments
      Liz
      • 4 Years Ago
      My husband and I were thinking about a new, used car. We went to a very nice dealer. I would concider it high end. We have very good credit so financing was no problem. We picked out a car, listened to all the back and forth pricing, then decided we would sleep on it for a day. After 24 hours we changed our minds and decided to keep our SUV. For two weeks we were slammed with phone calls from the dealer trying to get us to change our minds. That wasn't the worst part though. When I did a credit report they had ten hard inquiries that were unnessary. I will never do bussiness with this place again. Just a warning for others. When you say no, make sure they stop or your credit score will suffer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Never again will I buy ANYTHING made by General Motors
      • 4 Years Ago
      i bought a kia optima in jan 2011 and was very please with premier kia in kenner louisiana... no pressure... we knew what we wanted and what we were willing to spend... we have almost a perfect credit score so they knew they wanted us to buy... very satisfied with the sales purchase and very well satisfied with my car....i love it...
      • 4 Years Ago
      If they can come up with a lifetime warranty on the vehicle, excluding normal wear and tear, they might have something. I'm getting tired of paying inflated prices for parts and labor that wear out prematrely and have little or no warranty compared to aftermarket parts. Are you listening GM??
      • 4 Years Ago
      go to CARMAX AND ASK FOR KEVIN JENKINS ALL WILL GO WELL ..DULLES VIRGINIA THATS DULLES AIRPORT NEXT DOOR....BEEN THERE I HATE CAR SALES THERE ******* BUT HE IS GOOD..
      DomNardi
      • 4 Years Ago
      Las Aug we started looking for a new SUV we were already approved for a loan from our CU, my wife was originally interested in a KIA Sportage, looked at it and decided to compare other SUVs. after a few weeks of looking we stopped at the Chevy dealership in Belton,SC To look at a new Equinox. We told the salesman the amt that we were approved for. They didn't have any new ones ion the lot but he he had an 08 with 14500 mi fully loaded, test drove it. went back insed told him we weren't going to buy that day and were going to look around some more. Came home did research on our trade in and the Equinox used car price he was 1K under GM Certified price, went back with our trade was offered NADA tradein value for it plus $200 added on for 1yr of OnStar Only charge they tacked on was state sale tax NO other fees. The only hassle we got was that the check was coming fom Il and the wouldn't let us take the car home, and when we went to sign the final papers the finance mgr tried to sell us an extended warranty. other than that no brow beating or hard sell.
      Christopher
      • 4 Years Ago
      Last week my sister and I went to the Kia dealer . She new what she wanted and we knew how much she wanted to pay. We went inside and statred the painful game that car dealers play. I asked the salesperson what is the bottom line number the moron said I dont know. What I said you dont know . My sister said well who knows let me guess you have to go talk to the salesmanager. The moron said I will be right back. 5 minutes later moran comes back into his office and says ok here is the best price. We looked at it and said you have to do better then that. Ok moron says sorry thats it. My self and my sister stand up and thank the moron for his time and we start to leave moron said wait let me talk to my manager. Few minutes later moron comes back in with his manager who is even more of a moron says listen we want your business but this is the bottom line number its the bast we can do. I told both of them sorry no deal. At this point were about $ 800 off the price that we want to pay. Moron the manager then tells me we are only making $ 22 on this car and states that the info on the computer is false and you can not trust the prices you find on the it. Ok thats it you both have wasted our time and were done. My sister tells both morons if you come down $ 800 more you have a deal again they both say no thats the final number . We both get in her old car and start to drive off and she was upset she could not get the car she wanted. I told her relax they will call you in few days. This is no lie it was about 4 minutes later her cell phone rang and it was the moron salesmen stating we can come down $ 500 more . She said to him wow thought you were losing money. Bottom line she got the price she wanted.
      • 4 Years Ago
      BEARSTAR55****** I understand your frustration but let me say this. In the case of weaker credit being co-signed by better credit it used to be the norm that FINANCE INSTITUTIONS wanted the best credit first and the weaker credit on the back. It was actually to your benefit you were first. The reason being is if this young man had gotten behind on payments it would have negatively impacted your credit and you would have had no idea until after it was late or possibly repossessed. Then you would really have been upset because it would have hurt your credit. Lenders realize this so they stop it before it happens by putting the "Best Foot" forward on a loan. Don't blame the dealer though, he was following instructions from the lender and where you signed it was clearly marker Buyer and where he signed was marked Co-Buyer. Read and understand what you sign.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Awlnude Mar 23, 2011 4:25 PM Please keep in mind that most dealers will do anything to put you in a new/used car. They will lie like crazy to get a deal done. ********** And keep in mind that customers will do anything and say anything they can in order to get in a vehicle. It's a two way street. I assure you with enough money down everyone is guaranteed financing. Just because your friend didn't get approved on their terms doesn't mean they weren't approved under some terms. Besides, how rotten does your credit really have to be not to be approved with enough money down? You would have to be a sure enough credit criminal and obviously no lender trusts you enough to loan money when you have proven you don't even pay attention. Dealers want you to get financed just as bad as you want to. It's obviously the lender that stopped it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Please keep in mind that most dealers will do anything to put you in a new/used car. They will lie like crazy to get a deal done. One salesman at a local Jeep dealership told my neighbor (with weak credit) that she is guaranteed credit and that he "swears his kids head on it". Seven hours later, she still had no vehicle or approval. The salesman are liars and buying a car is a nightmare.
      • 4 Years Ago
      TCPDRIVER Mar 23, 2011 4:06 PM When the pushy salesman asks "What do I have to do to put you in this car today?" say "Give it to me for ten bucks and a six-pack, moron, that'll work." Then watch the look on his face.**************************** The reason salesmen ask thisquestion in the first place is to determine why you are there. Obviously you're shopping for a car, not out buying groceries. They ask this to see if you are there to buy something or just waste time. Salesmen only get paid when they sell something. To tie their day up pretending to be a customer is very inconsiderate. Your response would be met with laughter because he would know he is dealing with someone who has no intention of making a purchase and he would quickly get away from you.
      glaimc863
      • 4 Years Ago
      BARTOW CHEVY WOULD NOT WORK ON MY ASTRO AFTER BRING IT 3 TIMES FOR THE SAME PROBLEM.
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