Lexus Financial Services, Lincoln Automotive Financial Services and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services tied for highest-ranked luxury-brand auto lenders in J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study. Ford Motor Credit came in No.1 among mass-market brands.
Key drivers of consumer satisfaction in the study were online transactions and paperless processes, indicating that consumer preference in auto finance is shifting further toward self-service outside the dealership. Customers are increasingly arriving at retail locations with preapprovals, J.D. Power said, which is diminishing dealership influence over customer finance decisions.
More than half of consumers — 52 percent — research their finance options online, the study also found, up from last year's 47 percent. Forty-nine percent of customers who researched online received a preapproval for an auto loan or lease, compared with 21 percent who did not research ahead of time.
Jim Houston, senior director of J.D. Power's Automotive Finance Practice, said consumers are evaluating auto lender websites against every digital retail experience they encounter. Accustomed to sites such as Amazon, consumers expect to navigate auto lender websites quickly and with "no more than two clicks to get what I want done," Houston says.
If a lender's online bill-pay function is "very easy to use," according to consumers, overall satisfaction scores climb an average of 138 points for the finance company, J.D. Power said. Similarly, if billing statements and online bill-pay scheduling are easy to use, scores rise an average of 127 points.
In addition to raising customer satisfaction scores, maintaining a strong web presence increases the likelihood customers will pay off their auto loans.
"The sooner [the lender] engages, the quicker I can set up my payment," Houston said.