DETROIT -- Volkswagen posted the biggest gain among U.S. auto brands today in the 2011 J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index, rising nine spots to fourth place in the annual survey of the dealer sales process.
J.D. Power spokesman John Tews said VW’s overall sales satisfaction score improved because the brand made strides in each of the four buyer measures used in the survey. Those measurements include working out the deal, delivery process, salesperson knowledge and sincerity, and facility atmosphere.
While BMW’s Mini took the top spot in the mass-market brand segment for the second year in a row, Scion also improved from 11th place last year to fifth. Nissan moved out of nearly last place last year to No. 12 on the list of 19 brands represented this year.
Kia dropped from a “better than most” rating in 2010 to less than average this year.
In the luxury-vehicle segment, Audi, Acura and Volvo ranked below average while Lexus, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz took the top spots amid the absence of Jaguar in this year’s rankings. Jaguar, which finished first among the luxury brands last year, no longer offered a sample size large enough to be statistically accurate.
The survey is based on responses from 24,045 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in May 2011.
All measures improved notably from 2010, including an improvement in overall customer satisfaction from 635 points to 648 points on a scale of 1,000, the company said.
More time for tech
The greatest gains were made in the delivery process, despite a four-minute increase in the average length of time to complete it.
But J.D. Power said it believes there is a good reason behind the increase: Customers reported that dealers spent more time on technology demonstrations at the time of delivery.
“Although technology demonstrations add time to the delivery process, those explanations substantially improve satisfaction, as well as customer loyalty and advocacy,” Jim Gaz, director of automotive research at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
J.D. Power also found the average length of time a buyer spends at a dealership increased by 11 minutes to an average of 4.3 hours from 4.1 hours in 2010, the study said.
Chris Sutton, also a director of automotive research at the company, said dealers should be very efficient with customer time and try to streamline the negotiation and finance and insurance process.
Sutton also said consumers reported higher levels of satisfaction when they felt they were given more personal, one-on-one time with the fewest number of sales consultants and their needs were assessed in the showroom rather than on the lot.
“Customers prefer some measure of privacy when negotiating deals,” he said. “The fewer dealer personnel involved in the sales process the better.”