LOS ANGELES - It's a battle out there - at least in terms of sales satisfaction.
In the 1999 Sales Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power and Associates, the top eight marques finished within four index points of each other. Last year, the same eight makes were separated by just six points.
So the apparent fall from grace for two of last year's top finishers, Saturn (No. 1) and Lexus (No. 3), wasn't that steep.
Still, Saturn's six-index-point slip plunged it into sixth place on the list. The difference in Saturn's fortunes came from an increased feeling of pressure from sales consultants during the sales and finance and insurance process, according to the annual survey, which was released in late July.
The study, one of several J.D. Power efforts that dissect customer's contentment with cars and their dealers, focuses on the experience in purchasing a new vehicle.
Meanwhile, the three makes that tied at the top - Cadillac, Jaguar and Volvo - performed solidly in the areas of sales presentation, purchase transaction, F&I process, delivery/after-sale and price evaluation.
The most improved group was the DaimlerChrysler quartet of Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge and Jeep. Each showed higher scores in all ratings categories, said Brian Walters, senior manager of sales research for J.D. Power.
Despite their gains, Dodge and Jeep remained below average. How far below? J.D. Power doesn't release those scores.