Audi, for the first time, landed atop an annual dealership study that evaluates brands based on how effective salespeople are at handling consumers and closing deals.
The 2018 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index measures how mystery car shoppers sent to 3,466 dealerships in the U.S. were treated and later surveyed by consultant Pied Piper of Monterey, Calif. The latest study was conducted from July 2017 to June 2018.
Audi, whose score rose eight points, was also the most improved brand -- it rose to first place from last year's seventh-place showing. Lexus placed second, followed by Toyota and Mercedes-Benz. Last year's front runner, Infiniti, tied with Ram for fifth. Buick, Jaguar, Land Rover and Nissan tied for sixth.
They were followed by six brands that tied: Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Kia, Lincoln and Mini.
Infiniti suffered the steepest drop, decreasing seven points from the 2017 study. Still, Infiniti, along with Audi, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, all scored ahead of the industry average for the past three years.
Tesla, Genesis, Porsche, Alfa Romeo and Fiat rounded out the bottom five.
The behavior of salespeople varied widely from brand to brand and from dealership to dealership. For instance, salespeople from Tesla, Mini, Infiniti and Land Rover dealerships were more likely to ask customers if they had already visited the store's website, than those at Kia, Volkswagen, Ram and Genesis dealerships.
Salespeople at Chevrolet, Chrysler and Nissan dealerships were more likely to suggest writing up a deal, according to the study, while salespeople at Tesla, Mitsubishi, Land Rover, Volkswagen and Genesis dealerships made the suggestion less than 67 percent of the time.