sutton chris jd power

Despite the rise in online car buying and financing platforms, dealers retain their role as a crucial part of vehicle purchases, according to research by J. D. Power.

The automotive consultancy’s 2017 US Sales Satisfaction Index Study shows that while car shoppers are arming themselves with more vehicle information before going into a dealership, it is the pre-purchase interaction inside the dealership that leads to high sales satisfaction.

Chris Sutton, vice-president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power, said: “While customers are preparing themselves online with the best information and negotiation tactics, they still prefer to interact with a salesperson or product specialist prior to buying a vehicle.

“Dealers can’t control a customer’s pre-purchase activities, but they should be prepared to positively influence areas that will affect a customer’s likelihood to buy as well as their level of satisfaction.”

He said examples including posting photos of inventory to the dealer’s website or engaging with shoppers via text messaging or phone calls.

Sutton added: “Simple things go a long way toward earning a sale and satisfying a customer.”

Among the study’s findings is the importance of ‘hands-on’ explanations of complex new technologies.

Shoppers rely on dealership experts to demonstrate how to use it, with the study finding 41% of mass market buyers and 33% of luxury buyers want to completely learn about a vehicle’s features and controls during the delivery process.

Additionally, 65% of shoppers who have a sales consultant show them how to use features that interact with their smartphone.

The study - now in its 31st year - measures satisfaction with the sales experience among new-vehicle buyers and rejecters, who are those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere.

It is based on responses from 28,989 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in April or May 2017.