Many dealerships playing a different tune with sales pitches


It’s no mystery.

Car dealerships are getting better at selling to today’s shoppers.

But if you want a premium shopping experience, your best chance is going to a premium car dealership, according to a new “mystery shopper” study.

080416 SC Many dealerships playing a different tune with sales pitches-2

Three of the top four automotive brands among the 33 comprising the 2016 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index were premium brands, while four others finished within the top 10 in points.

The top-scorers were Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti, with 114 points, followed by Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, 112 each, and Toyota at 109. Overall, 16 brands scored at or above the industry average of 103 points, while 17 scored below it.

Survey results also showed that:

  • Other brands at or above industry average are Audi, BMW and Volkswagen, 106 points; Nissan and Porsche, 105; Cadillac, Honda, Hyundai and MINI, 104, and Acura, Chrysler and Kia, 103.
  • “Eight brands have consistently ranked at or above the industry average for each of the last five years,” BMW, Cadillac, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen.
  • Fourteen of the above-average brands received higher scores than last year, while 15 of the below-average brands also received higher scores.

Despite the improvements, nothing is guaranteed for car shoppers.

“There is no question that the typical dealership sells more effectively today than it did 10 years ago,” said Fran O’Hagan, president and CEO of Pied Piper Management Company, which surveyed sales behavior at more than 6,000 dealerships across the United States.

“However, plenty of variability remains. We have watched some brands completely change the way that they sell, while others sell today no differently than they did 10 years ago.”

And how do shoppers respond to improved behaviors?

Pied Piper, which has been conducting mystery-shopper surveys for 10 years, reports finding that dealerships in the top quarter of scores sell 16 percent more vehicles than those in the bottom quarter.

Following are examples of sales behaviors that have changed most:

  • Sales associates mentioned the availability of different financing or lease options, which occurred 79 percent of the time in 2016. Highest scoring brands were Infiniti, Lexus and Toyota.
  • Prospective customers were asked about reasons preventing a purchase, which occurred 74 percent of the time in 2016. Highest scoring brands: Toyota, Fiat and Kia.
  • Sales people discussed features unique from the competition, which occurred 63 percent of the time. Highest scoring brands were Tesla, Subaru and Lexus.

It appears for some dealerships, at least, the road to success is paved with good intentions.