Forget price -- it's about the treatment when it comes to factors that determine whether a consumer will leave an auto dealership happy or mad. J.D. Power and Associates' 2010 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index found that 52% of new-vehicle buyers cite dealer treatment as a reason to purchase their new vehicle from a specific dealer.
The ease of coming to an agreement on the final vehicle price meant more than the fairness of the actual price paid. After selecting a vehicle, the dreaded price negotiation is the lengthiest element of vehicle shopping.
According to the study -- which measures satisfaction in working out the deal, the salesperson, delivery process and dealership facility -- Jaguar is still number one. Jaguar has led in the yearly study for the past three years under luxury brands. The study is derived from surveys of 25,244 new-vehicle buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicles in May.
Jaguar does especially well in the salesperson and working out the deal factors. Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz, which were second and third last year, follow in the luxury brand segment rankings. Lincoln demonstrates the greatest improvement from 2009, moving from sixth-rank position to fourth in 2010.
BMW's Mini division ranks highest among mass market brands, especially in dealership facility, salesperson and delivery process. Mercury and GMC were second and third.
The brands that demonstrated the biggest improvement between last year and this year were Hyundai, which rose from 16th-rank position last year to seventh place, and Chrysler, which rose from 15th place to eighth.
The firm says consumers visit more than one dealership during the shopping process, but not necessarily because they think they can haggle for a better price elsewhere. About 20% of buyers end showroom visits primarily due to poor customer treatment by the dealer's salespeople.
Some common complaints: staff applying too much sales pressure; insufficient attention from salespeople; and dealer staff being discourteous or not being straightforward.
"The process of working out the deal is the primary indicator of whether new-vehicle buyers have a satisfactory purchase experience," said Jon Osborn, director of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. "While there are some buyers who enjoy the negotiation process, many find it to be the most unpleasant part of purchasing a new vehicle. It is particularly important for retailers to make this process as efficient and collaborative as possible, given its importance to overall satisfaction." The brands on the bottom of the list are Mazda, VW, Dodge, Jeep and Ram -- and Mitsubishi and Nissan tied for last place.