Consumers are increasingly satisfied with the auto-buying experience, with Lexus repeating as the top-rated luxury brand and Mini again pacing mass-market brands in the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Sales Satisfaction Index Study released today.
Overall sales satisfaction among new-vehicle buyers and lessees increased to 664 on a 1,000-point scale, up from 648 a year earlier, with most of the gain from better salesperson ratings.
For perspective, all 11 luxury brands and 9 of the 20 mass-market brands scored above industry average.
For the second straight year, Lexus was the top-rated luxury brand with a 737 score. Infiniti was the biggest gainer of all brands at 728, up 52 points from a year ago and moving from No. 8 in 2011 to 2nd this year.
Cadillac, Lincoln, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz round out the next 4 spots, scoring above the luxury average of 716.
Mini topped the mass-market brand list for a 3rd straight year with a 712 score.
Buick was No. 2 and GMC was third as General Motors placed all 3 of its mass-market brands in the top 5. Fiat was No. 4 and Subaru tied with Chevrolet for 5th.
Ford, Honda and Volkswagen also scored above the mass-market average of 657, with Honda's 30-point improvement moving it to No. 8 this year from No. 12 in 2011.
While GM and Ford Motor placed all their brands above industry average, fellow Detroit 3 automaker Chrysler Group could say that for only No. 4 Fiat. Chrysler, Ram, Dodge and Jeep were in the bottom 6 of the mass-market brands and earned the lowest Power Circle Ratings score: two out of five. Power Circle Ratings simplify the overall numerical scores, with the top brands receiving 5 circles.
Only 3 brands -- Lexus, Mini and Buick -- received 5 circles this year.
More U.S. consumers are checking out dealers electronically.
This year, almost 80 percent of buyers used the Internet while shopping -- and nearly a 3rd of those consulted online ratings/review sites when selecting a dealership, said Chris Sutton, Power's senior director of auto retailing.
"Now, neutral online ratings/review sites are playing a key role in dealer selection," he said. "Whether reviews are positive or negative, they impact buyers' willingness to visit a dealer."
Power's study used 31,386 responses among May new-vehicle buyers. It measured satisfaction with the selling process both at dealerships where they made the purchase and at any store where they shopped but did not buy.
Not surprisingly, respondents rated where they purchased a vehicle higher than where they didn't buy. But rejected dealerships made bigger improvements from 2011.
Satisfaction with the selling dealer averaged 776, up 5 points from a year ago and salespeople rated highest among four measures, above working out the deal, delivery process and facility.
But while rejected dealerships scored an average 553, that's up 28 points from 2011. Respondents rated unsuccessful dealerships on five weighted measures (listed in order of importance): salesperson, fairness of price, facility, inventory and experience negotiating.
I noticed Suzuki ranked last in sales-experience. While it's hard to say for sure, I'd bet that one of the big factors in the low rating was just the inadequate number of dealerships....many customers just have to go too far to get to one. I've said for years that Suzuki had to address the problem of constantly-closing dealerships...but instead of re-opening some of those closed-dealerships (or granting new franchises), what do they do instead?....pack up and leave the American market. Now, as a result, they aren't going to sell anything here....satisfied customers or not.
If no one cared, Power wouldn't have published it. In fact, Power used to have a policy of not listing those companies that scored below average in any given category. They changed at least part of that policy from reader-complaints.
Drivers gave the service departments of Lexus and GMC the highest ratings in the latest J.D. Power & Associates survey on customer service.
The results, released Wednesday, mark GMC's 1st time at the top of the rankings, Chris Sutton, senior director of automotive retail for J.D. Power, said in an interview.
The rankings are based on a survey late last year of more than 91,000 people who owned or leased 2008 to 2012 model-year vehicles
5 measures were examined to determine overall satisfaction with dealer service. Listed in order of importance, they were "service quality, service initiation, service advisor, service facility and vehicle pickup," J.D. Power says in its report.
The index is based on a 1,000 point scale.
Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus unit again ranked as the top luxury brand with an overall score of 862. Lexus earned points from customers for its performance in service initiation, service facilities and overall quality.
Lexus was followed in the luxury segment by Cadillac (858), Jaguar (856), Acura (852) and Infiniti (848). Trailing the field were Mercedes-Benz (832), Volvo (830) and Land Rover (825).
GMC led the so-called mass-market brands with a score of 819. Drivers felt that GMC "performs particularly well in service initiation, service advisor, service facility and service quality," J.D. Power said.
Rounding out the top 5 in the mass-market brands were Mini (810), Buick (809), Chevrolet (806) and Volkswagen (804).
At the bottom of the mass-market rankings were Subaru (772), Dodge (762), Ram (759) and Jeep (752.).
Sutton said that the results illustrate a fierce competition to give customers improved service.
"Manufacturers and the dealerships are streamlining the process, greeting customers quickly, making it easier to get appointments," Sutton said.
"They are moving faster on the paperwork. Service advisors are doing better at setting expectations and communicating the status of the work," Sutton added.
Average overall customer satisfaction with service at a dealer facility has increased to 797, up 29 points since 2011, the report says.
Overall satisfaction with dealer service facilities averaged 44 index points higher than satisfaction with independent auto service centers, a gap that is 6 points wider than in the report released last year.