German luxury brands continue to rule when it comes to satisfaction with the new-car buying process, according to U.S. consumers.
Porsche shoved Mercedes-Benz from first to second place in sales satisfaction among luxury brands in J.D. Power’s 2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study released today.
Porsche’s score rose 14 points from a year ago to 752 points on the 2015 index. It placed fifth among luxury brands in 2014. Mercedes-Benz scored 749, a decline of 12 points from last year.
For a sixth consecutive year, Mini ranks highest among mass-market brands, with a score of 762, a 35-point increase from 2014.
Among luxury brands, Lexus placed third, up from fourth place last year. Infiniti fell from second place to fourth place followed by Jaguar, which was third among luxury brands last year.
Cadillac moved above the luxury brand average of 732 to come in behind Jaguar at sixth place.
Scoring below the luxury segment’s average were, in order, BMW, Lincoln, Audi, Land Rover, Volvo and Acura.
In May, Porsche's U.S. chief, Detlev von Platen, called for the brand, including its dealers, to improve customer satisfaction ratings.
GM still near top
For the second consecutive year, General Motors brands dominated three of the four top spots among mass-market brands.
Despite a 19-point decline from last year’s score, Buick placed just behind Mini for a third straight year. It scored 707. Buick was followed by Chevrolet, GMC, Volkswagen, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Mazda and Subaru, all of which scored above the mass-market brands’ average of 681.
The biggest tumble was by Toyota, which fell from No. 6 to below the mass-market brand average, scoring 678. Honda beat Toyota by one point at 679.
Mass-market brands that fell below the segment’s average were, in order, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler, Ram, Kia, Mitsubishi, Dodge and Jeep.
Overall, the industry’s sales satisfaction score improved, with the average luxury-brand score rising 16 points and the average mass-market brand score up 12 points.
Mini had the largest year-over-year increase in score among mass market brands, gaining 35 points from 2014. Ram and Mitsubishi gained 31 points, while Mazda jumped 16 points and Subaru rose 12 points.
Six luxury brands saw their ratings decline year-over-year, compared to four mass-market brands. Volvo dropped 17 points, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover declined by 12 points, while Infiniti fell by 10 points. First-place Porsche had the largest gain among luxury brands, advancing 14 points year-over-year.
Overall, sales satisfaction improved to 688 in 2015 from 686 last year.
With more and more tech-savvy customers, those dealerships that integrated technology tools into their sales process delivered a superior customer experience, the study found.
For example, among luxury and non-luxury brands, salespeople who used tablets to record customer vehicle needs, demonstrate car features and display pricing information earned higher satisfaction scores than those who did not use a tablet. Notably, the use of handwritten price quotes had a negative impact on buyer satisfaction with technology usage.
“Dealerships should understand that customers want and trust technology and that it can enhance efficiencies,” Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “Dealers that disregard it may risk being left behind in three to five years.”
Finance and insurance products also impacted scores. The J.D. Power survey’s results showed that among non-luxury owners, satisfaction is 46 points higher when a dealer offers them a prepaid maintenance contract vs. when they do not. Among luxury owners, the gap is 26 points. And when those F&I products are presented on a computer tablet, satisfaction is even higher vs. printed materials or verbal descriptions and handwritten materials.
The most important key performance indicator in the sales process continues to be the salesperson’s ability to completely understand the customer’s needs, J.D. Power said. The measure is met 86 percent of the time and, when met, it can boost overall satisfaction by up to 106 points.
J.D. Power said high-scoring salespeople are “good listeners, ask relevant questions and are able to deliver on customer requests.”