If you want the best experience possible when buying a new car, then you'd better head down to your local Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, or Lexus showroom. According a mystery shopper study conducted by the Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index, those three luxury brands ranked highest among the 33 makes surveyed. The highest scoring mainstream brands included GMC, Hyundai, Kia, and Ford.

The study asked 5,203 mystery shoppers about the tactics used by salespeople during their most recent automotive purchases, and found a few interesting parallels along the way. For example, dealers at Infiniti, Land Rover, and Smart leaned heavily on vehicle walk-arounds with potential customers, while Jaguar, Volvo, and Audi were quick to point out exclusive features.

This study contrasts with a similar study conducted by JD Power in 2012. Its Sales Satisfaction Survey listed Mini as the top scorer, while Pied Piper's mystery shoppers ranked the BMW-owned brand below the industry average. Lexus scored highly on both surveys, as did Infiniti and GMC.

Not all brands fared well with the mystery shoppers. Lincoln, Chrysler, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Scion all finished well below the industry average. According to an analysis on Automotive News, the lower scoring brands suffered from a lack of product and dealers that would push potential customers away from their desired brands. Scroll down for the official press release.
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July 2013
MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA – July 8, 2013 – Mercedes-Benz dealerships ranked highest in the newly released 2013 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index(R) (PSI(R)) U.S. Auto Industry Benchmarking Study, which measured dealership treatment of car-shoppers. Study rankings by brand were determined by the patent-pending Pied Piper PSI process, which ties "mystery shopping" measurement and scoring to industry sales success. Infiniti and Lexus dealerships, the luxury brands from Nissan and Toyota respectively, finished ranked second and third.

Nineteen of the thirty-three different brands led at least one PSI sales process category, and performance varied by brand within each category. For example, Jaguar, Volvo and Audi salespeople were most likely to discuss features unique from the competition. Infiniti, Land Rover and smart salespeople were most likely to conduct a vehicle "walk-around" demonstration. Kia, Fiat and Hyundai salespeople were most likely to give compelling reasons to buy now.

Industry average dealership performance was mixed when comparing 2013 with the previous year.

Salesperson behaviors more likely in 2013 than 2012 include the following:
• Mentioning the availability of different finance or lease options (now 67% of the time)
• Asking about factors preventing purchase (now 71% of the time)
• Asking if the prospect has a trade-in (now 83% of the time)

Salesperson behaviors less likely in 2013 than 2012 include the following:
• Offering a brochure (now 52% of the time)
• Discussing features unique from the competition (now 55% of the time)
• Involving prospect with visual aids (now 38% of the time)

2013 marks the seventh consecutive year of Pied Piper PSI auto industry benchmarking studies. With seven years of data gathered from tens of thousands of auto PSI evaluations nationwide, Pied Piper was able to fine-tune the study questions, weightings and scoring for 2013. As a result, Pied Piper reset the 2013 auto industry average PSI score to "100."

The resulting "second generation" PSI scoring is now even more closely correlated to auto dealership sales success. Pied Piper has found that on average, when auto dealerships are ranked by their PSI score, dealerships in the top quarter sell 16% more vehicles than the dealerships in the bottom quarter. "Any dealership faces plenty of challenges that are difficult, if not impossible, to change, such as product-line sold or dealership location," said Fran O'Hagan, President and CEO of Pied Piper Management Company LLC. "In contrast, how a sales team sells is something a dealership can improve immediately."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      My best experience so far has been with Mercedes Benz. At their main dealership in NYC they treat you like royalty. I bought my latest E Class with the dealership ordering it from Germany after I chose all of my future car's configurations with the options I wanted. No one pushed me. Their guys were there just to answer the questions I asked on technical issues. After placing the order I regularly got news from them till the car arrived at their New York/New Jersey port warehouse. I picked up the car at the dealeship in NYC with less than a mile on the odometer...
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sounds about right. I have only two Mazda dealerships in my local area and while I had a legitimately great experience at the dealership I bought my Mazda3 from, the first one I went too was very pushy in getting me to sign for the vehicle even though I told them multiple times I was just there for a test drive. The other place had no pressure sales and even let me take the vehicle home for the entire weekend on an extended test drive. Obviously they got the sale. Looks like Mazda needs to work on its dealership experience. They have one of the smallest dealer footprints in the U.S. so they're already at a disadvantage. Last thing they need is the few number of dealerships they do have to be known for sub-par buyer experience.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Talked to a friend who used to sell Honda's in Houston for several years. Since he's Chinese-American, he was always "assigned" the Asian customers that walked up. He said no matter how shabby Chinese and Indian customers looked, he knew they had money, with many paying cash. However, he hated how they fought for every penny during negotiations. Japanese customers, on other hand, would dress the best but tended to hardly negotiate at all.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think MINI and Lexus might be able to show that the key here is consistency. JD Power likely went to a set of dealers that did fairly well, and Pied Piper probably went to a set of dealers that didn't really care, lacked product, etc. Lexus, on the other hand, always has a consistent look, they seem to have a consistent policy for greeting guests, and I bet they are able to stock products that people want to look at. In this scenario, the dealer matters less because the brand dictates what the experience is. I know I've been to many other brands' dealers that are alternately acceptable or crap, so it's not just an issue with MINI. High pressure sales tactics, pushing you towards product that is often quite different to what you wanted (because that's what they have in stock), dodging questions about options, swapping with other dealers, etc. Not to mention random dealer markups like $1k for pinstripe and dealer decal packages that nobody in their right mind would want anyway...
      • 2 Years Ago
      I never like buying a car- I will take the Tesla experience any day. I have noticed a difference in sales people attitudes just based on appearance. While shopping large luxury cars (A8, S class, XJ, and 7), one day I was in shorts and a t shirt and basically was ignored, even though I was going to spend twice as much as the average customer there that day. When I circled back to an Audi dealer for another look at a car during the week (wearing a nice suit), they jumped right up. Maybe some of these sales guys need to read the book Millionaire Next Door, and not jump to conclusions about their potential customers.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wish all car companies could sell direct. The dealer system is archaic and absurd. Poor Mazda - they have great cars, but all too many of the dealers seem like small-time thugs.
      Andrew L
      • 2 Years Ago
      I agree with this I brought my LS to the dealer to get an oil change since they were touting this new dealership experience and while it was being done I wanted to see the 13 MKZ in person. Talk about high pressured sales it was insane and they kept giving me a price that was above what was listed as a monthly lease on Lincoln.com. I walked out in disgust I probably won't be buying a new Lincoln since they don't have a proper replacement for my LS.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andrew L
        The Mkz is not a successor to the LS, what were you thinking.
      Dean Hammond
      • 2 Years Ago
      yet another useless survey implanting fear and feeding the psyche of individuals that have had a bad buying experience...I\'ll leave it at this...YOUR experience is based on the individual you deal with, someone mentioned Tesla, got news for you, A-holes work everywhere, in the car business it is NOT what you know, it is WHO you know, and your experience revolves around a dealers personnel,,,,theres always going to be the good and the bad regardless of brand...and tesla is NOT the holy grail....
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dean Hammond
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          so true...was expecting the Tesal crowd to arrive with flaming torches and pitchforks.....lol.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          edit \"Tesla\"...apologies...
      • 2 Years Ago
      I have found BMW sales people to be the most pushy. Had much better experience at Lexus and Acura dealerships.
        • 2 Years Ago
        I disagree. I went to 3 different BMW dealerships last year, and I did not encounter any pushy sales people, even when we were pretty much just hemming and hawing and test driving cars. We ended up custom ordering our car- and that was a good, pain free process (it was a long wait though). Nobody tried to push any existing car on the lot on us.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Always had a good experience at Infiniti dealerships, worse dealership I been to was Steven's Creek Subaru in San Jose
      • 2 Years Ago
      I totally agree about lexus-they are great. have heard negatives about m-b from a few folks i know who have had them. little surprised by the bmw comments, because when i had mine the experience was great!
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