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Car Buyers Give Dealers High Marks

Car Buyers Give Dealers High Marks for Trust

New vehicle buyers rank their franchise new car auto dealer nearly as trustworthy as law enforcement and even more so than the health care, insurance and legal industries along with the news media, according to a survey by Automotive Retailing Today, a coalition of auto manufacturers and dealer organizations.

"It's gratifying that our customers acknowledge the effort we put into winning their confidence and trust," Automotive Retailing Today Chairman Alan Starling said. "Buyers are telling us they like what they encounter at their local dealers, and women and minority buyers give us especially high marks."

In the new research, conducted by Harris Interactive, car purchasers rated the trustworthiness of their auto dealership 68.4 on a 100-point scale, nearly as high as the score they gave to law enforcement (69.5), and higher than the health care (52.8), insurance (48.9) and legal (48) industries and the media (43.8). Car buyers also trusted their dealership more than the auto dealership industry in general (46.5), revealing that stereotypes about the industry diminish as customers experience the dealership. "The high trust ratings from our buyers are particularly gratifying. This is a highly competitive business, so dealers who earn their customers' trust and respect have a strategic advantage." Starling noted.

The survey noted an inconsistency between those who have recently made a purchase and those who have not. Car buyers gave their dealers an average trust score of 68 out of 100 — compared to a score of 41 for dealers in general from those who have not shopped for a new vehicle.

The research also shows that the greater the interaction with today's auto dealers, the more positive the customer's experience. Sixty-three percent of those who shopped but did not buy indicated that their experience was positive, compared to 81 percent of those who purchased a vehicle.

ART encourages consumers to educate themselves from as many sources as possible — including manufacturers, dealers and independent third parties — before undertaking the purchase experience to make it more efficient. Manufacturers and dealers alike work hard to meet ever-increasing consumer demands and they invest heavily in up-to-date communications to help customers learn more about trade-in value, model availability and options; performance; safety features; incentives; and financing.

"Today's new vehicle buyers arrive in showrooms smarter and better prepared to discuss what they want," Starling said. "We are pleased with this heightened awareness and participation, and dealer personnel are emphasizing full disclosure and openness as trust-building factors."

Other survey highlights:

  • 91 percent of new car buyers reported satisfaction with the dealership where they purchased or leased a new vehicle.

  • 83 percent of women (and 80 percent of men) had a positive overall experience. Women were especially favorable about dealer financing-reporting that the dealership financing personnel took the time to understand their questions.

  • 87 percent of consumers liked the financing process, reporting that the dealer provided enough information for an educated, informed decision.

  • 89 percent of minorities left dealerships satisfied. 91 percent felt that the dealership was respectful to them and 95 percent believed the salesperson was respectful. Nine out of 10 felt the financing process was also respectful.

  • 53 percent of news media members felt that consumers would say they had positive experiences at the dealership. In fact, 81 percent of consumers reported positive experiences.

The Harris Interactive telephone survey of 1,664 individuals was conducted in June and July 2004 among 887 new car purchasers/lessees, including an oversample of minority buyers; 147 consumers who shopped for a car but did not make a purchase; and 630 consumers who had not shopped for a new car at all in the prior 18 months. The study also included telephone interviews with 86 journalists who cover the automotive industry. The margin of error for the survey is 2.4 percent.

For more information, visit ART.