• Nov 29th 2012 at 11:29AM
  • 18
JD Power has released its annual Sales Satisfaction Index Study, and once again Mini and Lexus have taken top honors. Overall, buyers are more satisfied with the auto-buying sales experience than they were last year, with those surveyed reporting an average score of 664 points on a 1,000-point scale. That's up from 648 in 2011. Dealer satisfaction also increased by five points over last year as well.

All told, Lexus brought home an index score of 737, which was high enough to put it atop the luxury brands for the second year in a row. JD Power says Infiniti came in second in that category with a score of 728 and Cadillac rounded out the podium with it's rating of 725. Speaking of Infiniti, that brand saw the single largest jump in sales satisfaction of any brand on the survey, popping up 52 index points over 2011.

Among mass-market brands, Mini ranked highest with a score of 712, followed closely by Buick with 706 and GMC farther down the line with 683. You can check out the full press release below for more information.
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2012 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study

Online Ratings/Review Sites and Social Networking Sites Impact New-Vehicle Buyers' Selection of Dealership

Lexus Ranks Highest among Luxury Brands for a Second Consecutive Year;
MINI Ranks Highest among Mass Market Brands for a Third Consecutive Year

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 28 November 2012 -- Nearly 80 percent of new-vehicle buyers use the Internet during their shopping process, among whom nearly one-third consult online ratings/review sites when selecting a dealer, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) StudySM released today.

"For years, new-vehicle buyers have accessed the Internet to research model information, vehicle features, configurations and pricing," said Chris Sutton, senior director of the Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Now, neutral online ratings/review sites are playing a key role in dealer selection. Whether the online reviews are positive or negative, they impact buyers' willingness to visit a dealer."

The study finds that new-vehicle buyers are much more inclined to use a ratings/review site than a social networking site when selecting a dealer. However, satisfaction with the dealership experience is significantly higher among new-vehicle buyers who use social networking sites than among those who consult ratings/review sites.

"That's the power of the network," said Sutton. "New-vehicle buyers are using the Internet to read the reviews and recommendations of other buyers who have experience with a particular dealer, so it would be prudent for dealers to ensure their customers have had a satisfying experience, given their influence on prospective customers."

Among new-vehicle buyers, males are significantly more likely than females to consult ratings/review sites, whereas females are significantly more likely to consult social networking sites. Both genders are equally likely to visit blogs, forums, or social networking sites (7% each); however, females post considerably more positive online statements regarding their dealer experience, compared with males (86% indicate comments "mostly positive" vs. 77%, respectively).

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). Among buyers, satisfaction is examined across four measures (listed in order of importance): working out the deal (17%); salesperson (13%); delivery process (11%); and facility (10%). Among rejecters, satisfaction is examined across five measures (listed in order of importance): salesperson (20%); fairness of price (12%); facility (6%); inventory (6%); and experience negotiating (5%).

Overall sales satisfaction among both buyers and rejecters averages 664 on a 1,000-point scale in 2012, improving from 648 in 2011.

Satisfaction with the selling dealer averages 776 in 2012, a five-point increase from 2011. Satisfaction improves in three of the four measures that examine satisfaction among buyers, with salesperson achieving the highest score.

Among buyers whose salesperson asked them questions to determine their vehicle needs, only 21 percent perceive some or too much pressure from dealer sales staff, compared with 32 percent among those whose salesperson did not ask questions about their needs who perceive some or too much pressure. These results indicate that customers prefer salespeople who invest the time up front to listen to them and ensure they select the right vehicle. Perceived pressure decreases when sales consultants establish a business relationship and understand customer needs.

Given the increasing complexity of technology in today's new models, there is a growing need for dealers to spend time explaining complicated audio, entertainment and navigation systems so buyers can fully utilize all the benefits these technologies offer. A majority (86%) of new-vehicle buyers indicate that the dealer staff spent "just the right amount of time" with them during the delivery process. Among the 8 percent of new-vehicle buyers who say that the dealer staff did not spend enough time at delivery, nearly three-fourths indicate they would have preferred staff to spend more time reviewing their vehicle's features and technologies, such as pairing their phone to Bluetooth or demonstrating the navigation system.

Satisfaction with the dealership where rejecters shopped but did not buy their vehicle improves to 553 in 2012, a 28-point increase from 2011, with significant improvements in each of the five measures.

Lexus ranks highest among luxury brands in satisfaction with the new-vehicle buying experience for a second consecutive year, with an index score of 737. Rankings are based on the experiences of both buyers and rejecters. Infiniti (728) and Cadillac (725) follow in the luxury segment rankings to round out the three highest-performing brands. Year-over-year sales satisfaction improves the most for Infiniti (+52 index points), moving from ranking eighth in 2011 to rank second in 2012.

MINI ranks highest among mass market brands for a third consecutive year, with a score of 712. Buick (706) and GMC (683) follow in the mass market segment rankings. Honda improves the most among mass market brands (+30 index points) and moves from ranking 12th in 2011 to rank eighth in 2012.

For a comprehensive perspective of automotive retail trends, which was presented by John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates, on Nov. 27 at the NADA/J.D. Power 2012 Western Automotive Conference, click here.

The 2012 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study is based on responses from 31,386 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in May 2012. The study was fielded between August and October 2012.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      Also worth noting that MINI dealerships are ONLY the most award winning BMW dealerships. Not just any BMW dealership can open a MINI wing... you have to have across the board high marks for customer service before you even open up the MINI wing.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Every MINI dealer I've been too has been a class act. My mom has had several through the years (even an old Rover Mini in the UK) and now I have a '12 MCS and everyone is great - other owners and the dealerships.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Totally agree. I've been to several MINI dealerships when test-driving the Clubman S and I never had that "sleeked-back, pony-tailed sleazy sales guy" feeling. On the other hand, I definitely got that smug sleek feeling at VW shops with the GTI. I'm sure not all dealerships are the same, but there is some pattern to them.
      • 2 Years Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      In the end it comes down to the individual dealership. I agree that a manufacturer can do their best to train a dealership on customer service, including awards and audits. And that is most likely why you see Lexus at that the top. But there is always going to be one bad lemon in there. The reverse is also true.
      • 2 Years Ago
        • 2 Years Ago
        They sold that many in October. They're already over 250k so far this year. http://libraryofmotoring.info/2012/11/09/worldwide-mini-sales-for-october-2012/
      • 2 Years Ago
      I was recently at a Lexus dealership and had a terrible experience... they tried to hit me with the old bate and switch, low balling my trade in to an unbelievable able degree and general rudeness. I had a better time with Acure and Volvo. Honestly buying a car always sucks.
      • 2 Years Ago
      In my city, most luxury car dealerships here are monopolies of their own brands. One guy owns all the BMW and Mini dealerships, and another guy owns all the Audi dealerships. There is only one Lexus dealership, one Infiniti dealership, and one Jaguar dealership. There are only two Mercedes dealerships. There is much more competition in the mainstream car dealerships, and I feel the mainstream car dealerships provide better service and attitude whereas the luxury car dealerships do not give a damn.
      El Angel
      • 2 Years Ago
      If I could just go to any dealer and test drive a car without being lied to or harassed I would be pretty happy with sales experience. When we went shopping for a car we had to bring a woman with us to test drive cars without issues. I also found it funny how kia, ford, and other none luxury dealer gave us a hard time. Mercedes & BMW just gave us the keys with minimum effort.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @El Angel
        Do you own the car ???? A dealership is not there for your own personal amusement. If you want to just drive what you want and have a good time like you do, go to Hertz!!!
        Connor Murphy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @El Angel
        When you sell great cars you don't need to pressure the sale. The car sells itself.
      • 2 Years Ago
      While I agree on the Infiniti sales experience, I would debate the Lexus part. So far at the 2 or 3 lexus dealers I have visited, I haven't been treated as good as I get treated at lets say a BMW or a Merc showroom. I guess this is more an average national number so I might just have been in the wrong dealerships :).. I always felt that Lexus dealers had that arrogance about them..
      • 2 Years Ago
      Must be all the free lube jobs.
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