Survey: Saturn dealers tops again with buyers

For the second straight year and the sixth time in seven years, Saturn dealerships have won the title as the most pleasant places in America to buy a car.

The automaker claimed the top spot in the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Sales Satisfaction Index Study, beating out luxury brands Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti and Jaguar for the title.

The study, in its 15th year, tallied 46,000 responses from buyers and lessees of 2000 and 2001 model light trucks and cars.

Power pointed to Saturn's nonnegotiable pricing and low-stress selling philosophy as the main reasons for the brand's hold on the top spot.

'Saturn attracts a population of buyers that are cynical of dealers,' said Chris Denove, a partner at J.D. Power. 'Part of it boils down to Saturn's nonnegotiated sales approach; the customer doesn't leave wondering if somebody else got a better deal.'

With the removal of uncomfortable haggling, buyers are more likely to view their salesperson in a trustworthy light. 'There certainly is a lot less tension when the price is already decided,' said Todd Turner, industry analyst and publisher of Car Concepts in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Turner said Saturn dealers have another big advantage. 'Saturn has it easy,' he said. 'Because they are not overdealered, there is not a lot of competition (from other Saturn stores) in the same area.'

Cadillac beat out Lexus by a slim margin after tying with the Toyota luxury maker for second in 2000.

'It's not a surprise,' Turner said. 'Cadillac has an older buyer demographic that returns several times to the same dealer because they are satisfied.'

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