Auto Service World
News   December 8, 2023   by Adam Malik

Why the vehicle buying process has improved

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Customers are having an improved experience when going through the vehicle buying process.

The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study reported growing new-vehicle inventory on dealers’ lots combined with moderating prices have propelled customer satisfaction upward trajectory this year.

In 2023, overall customer satisfaction with the vehicle purchase experience increased to 793 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 786 one year ago.

The study also found that satisfaction among owners of internal combustion engine vehicles continues to be higher than among electric vehicle owners in both the premium and mass market segments.

Overall satisfaction among owners of mass-market ICE vehicles is 848, compared to the 790 satisfaction score among mass-market EV owners. Satisfaction among premium EV owners is 831, while it’s 866 among premium ICE vehicle owners.

“The improved level of vehicle inventory and the easing of upward pressure on prices are the driving factors in sending sales satisfaction back in a positive direction,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power. “Vehicle buyers are more satisfied with the inventory choices they now see in dealerships across the country—more than in the past three years. Increased inventory also means fewer buyers are paying more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for their new vehicle.”

More than one-third (34 per cent) of EV buyers say dealers are not doing enough to make them feel comfortable with EV maintenance requirements and 11 per cent aren’t comfortable with the EV charging process and options.

“Buyers of ICE vehicles don’t need to be taught how to put fuel in the gas tank,” Sutton said. “But salespeople need to show EV buyers how to charge their vehicles at home and what’s involved in using a public charging station.”

Higher inventory means dealers can’t charge higher than MSRP, meaning few customers are paying above the line. Dealer profits may take a hit but customer satisfaction benefits, J.D. Power noted. It found that 15 per cent of mass market buyers paid above MSRP, a decrease from 25 per cent in 2022.

“Buyers who paid more than MSRP are much less satisfied with the sales process than those who paid MSRP or less,” J.D. Power said.

That said, customers aren’t that satisfied with how much they’re paying. This year, buyers of mass market vehicles provide a rating of 8.04 (on a 10-point scale) for fairness of price paid vs. 8.14 in 2020.

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