Reputation analyzed around 20,000 dealerships, 33 brands and 5 million customer reviews to rank nonluxury and luxury brands in the U.S. as well as private and public dealership groups. Brands are scored for their positive sentiment, visibility and engagement, which Reputation says are key reputation elements.
Public dealership group AutoNation Inc. and privately held Hendrick Automotive Group filled the top spots in their respective rankings.
AutoNation climbed from third place in 2021 while Hendrick held on for another year as the private dealership group with the best reputation.
Kenneth Kirby, general manager of AutoNation Subaru in Hilton Head, S.C., works for two of the top finishers in the study.
"It does make selling yourself and the dealership experience much easier. When I first started with Subaru, right away it felt different," he said in a statement provided to Automotive News. "They really made me feel welcome like I was part of the team. Subaru wanted to get to know me and what my vision was.
"It has been a mirror image working for AutoNation and Subaru brand. They both really make it easy to take care of customers in the right way. You have confidence in what you offer the customer is fair and honest."
Deeper survey topics
On top of analyzing millions of reviews, Reputation surveyed buyers about using digital tools to shop for cars. Of these consumers, 85 percent said reviews are important, and 65 percent said a dealership needs a four-star rating to earn their consideration. Consumers are also willing to travel for top-rated dealerships; 70 percent said they would drive 20 miles.
A consumer's first impression of a dealership is made well before they enter a lot, if at all, with 43 percent of shoppers using Google to decide where to buy a car. Online customer service is important to consumers, as 40 percent want to schedule a test drive online and 61 percent want to look at inventory on the web, Reputation data shows.
The 2022 report shows more people are talking about electric vehicles, which Mingle said is among the most notable trends.
Total reviews are down 3 percent from last year, which Reputation's report attributes to people buying fewer cars in 2022. However, the review volume for EVs is increasing, the report said.
"I think that builds enthusiasm for the industry and for the new technology," Mingle said. "Now, whether that turns into sales or not? I don't know, but you first have to build awareness and excitement for demand to come."
AutoNation, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks No. 1 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 262,403 new vehicles in 2021. Hendrick Automotive Group, of Charlotte, N.C., ranks No. 6 on the list, with retail sales of 103,949 in 2021.