Increasing New-Vehicle Inventory, Moderating Prices Boost Sales Satisfaction, J.D. Power Finds

Increasing New-Vehicle Inventory, Moderating Prices Boost Sales Satisfaction, J.D. Power Finds

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

The residual effects of the pandemic are finally in the rearview mirror, spurring improved customer satisfaction with the vehicle purchase process. According to the J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, growing new-vehicle inventory on dealers’ lots and accompanying moderating prices have combined to propel customer satisfaction in an upward trajectory in 2023. This year, overall customer satisfaction with the vehicle purchase experience increases to 793 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 786 a year ago.

The study also finds that satisfaction among owners of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles continues to be higher than among electric vehicle (EV) owners in both the premium and mass market segments. Overall satisfaction among owners of mass market EVs is 790, while satisfaction among mass market ICE vehicle owners is 848. Satisfaction among premium EV owners is 831 vs. 866 among premium ICE vehicle owners. More than one-third (34%) of EV buyers say dealers are not doing enough to make them feel comfortable with EV maintenance requirements and 11% are not comfortable with the EV charging process and options.

“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.”

Following are some key findings of the 2023 study: 

  • Smaller percentage of buyers are paying above MSRP: As inventory improves, many dealers are finding it harder to charge more than the suggested price for vehicles. While this trend might negatively affect immediate dealer profitability, it certainly aids overall sales satisfaction. Buyers who paid more than MSRP are much less satisfied with the sales process than those who paid MSRP or less. The study finds that 15% of mass market buyers paid above MSRP, a decrease from 25% in 2022. Among buyers of premium vehicles, 10% paid more than MSRP this year vs. 19% a year ago. These customers also have lower service loyalty and dealer advocacy.
     
  • Satisfaction with price improves but remains below pre-pandemic levels: Increasing inventory levels have led to moderating vehicle prices. However, customer satisfaction is still below pre-pandemic levels. 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. Buyers of premium vehicles Premium buyers provide a rating of 8.18 for fairness of price paid, which is down from 8.42 in 2020.
     
  • Notable gaps in salesperson expertise: Salesperson expertise is a key factor, resulting in lower satisfaction among EV buyers than experienced by their contemporaries purchasing ICE vehicles. Among mass market brands, EV buyer perception regarding the expertise of the retailer staff results in a rating of 7.81 vs. 8.75 for perception of ICE staff expertise. Premium brands offer a similar story. Premium EV buyers rate dealer staff expertise at 8.59 compared with 8.95 for ICE retailer staff expertise.
     
  • Tell me more, tell me more: More than 30% of EV buyers say they would like additional information on their vehicle’s maintenance schedule and 7% say they would like additional assistance on setting up their home charging. Notable is that 11% of EV buyers say they would like further explanation on how to charge their vehicle at home or elsewhere. “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.”

Study Rankings

Porsche ranks highest in sales satisfaction among premium brands, with a score of 840. Infiniti (832) ranks second and Alfa Romeo (824) ranks third.

Buick ranks highestin sales satisfaction among mass market brands for a second consecutive year, with a score of 824. GMC (821) ranks second, while Chevrolet (812) and Mitsubishi (812) each rank third in a tie.

Segment Awards

Listed below are the highest-ranked brands in each segment.

Premium Car: Porsche
Premium SUV: Porsche
Mass Market Car: Chevrolet
Mass Market SUV/Minivan: GMC
Mass Market Truck: GMC

Now in its 38th year, the U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study measures satisfaction with the sales experience among new-vehicle buyers and rejecters (those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere). Buyer satisfaction is based on six factors (in order of importance): delivery process (26%); dealer personnel (24%); working out the deal (19%); paperwork completion (18%); dealership facility (10%); and dealership website (4%). Rejecter satisfaction is based on five factors: salesperson (40%); price (23%); facility (14%); variety of inventory (11%); and negotiation (11%). 

The 2023 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study is based on responses from 37,234 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle from March through May 2023. The study is a comprehensive analysis of the new-vehicle purchase experience and measures customer satisfaction with the selling dealer (satisfaction among buyers). The study also measures satisfaction with brands and dealerships that were shopped but ultimately rejected in favor of the selling dealership (satisfaction among rejecters). The study was fielded from July through September 2023.

For more information about the U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, visit 

https://www.jdpower.com/business/automotive/us-sales-satisfaction-index-ssi-study.

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