Loyalty to dealers and vehicle brands is on the rise, but so is customer impatience with dealers who fail to provide information in a timely manner, according to a study by consultants at Capgemini.
Capgemini's 14th Annual Cars Online Study found that 59 percent of 1,000 U.S. respondents said they would buy a vehicle from the same dealer, up from 49 percent in the previous survey.
Brand loyalty was even higher. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they would buy the same brand this year, up from 61 percent in the previous survey.
Michael Boruszok, vice president of Capgemini's automotive practice, attributed the increases to improvements in customer support at dealerships and industrywide gains in vehicle quality and styling.
The study also looked at attitudes in other countries, including Brazil, China, India and Europe. Another 7,000 people were surveyed.
The influence of dealers in the shopping process rose in the United States and elsewhere this year, despite the near-universal percentage of car shoppers today who do some portion of the vehicle research online, the survey showed.
For example, dealers and their salespeople were named as the most important source of information among car shoppers by 64 percent of respondents this year, an all-time high. That compared with 58 percent in the last survey, which was conducted in the summer of 2011 and released a year ago.
Following dealers in influence were, in order, factory Web sites, third-party shopping sites, dealer Web sites and search engines.
Bringing up the rear were shoppers' families and friends, categories that have dropped over the years as dealers and factory Web sites emerged as consumers' most trusted sources.
While 94 percent of U.S. car shoppers now start shopping online, they can click off a site quickly if they don't like the experience, Boruszok said.
Seventy-three percent of respondents said that if response time from a factory or dealer Web site is too slow, they will terminate their shopping there without visiting a showroom.
That's 3 percentage points higher than last year, reflecting the need for dealers and manufacturers to respond quickly to information requests and to answer specific questions, Boruszok said.