Consumer satisfaction ratings plummet as prices rise: J.D. Power

When dealers are charging over MSRP for new cars, consumers are increasingly unhappy with their buying experiences, according to the newest J.D. Power 2022 Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study. The supply-chain issues which have led to low inventories and higher prices to consumers have created a market where buyers are rating their buying experiences at the lowest levels in ten years. Overall sales satisfaction has dipped to 786 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 789 in 2021.  

“Even in the face of a continuing shortage of new-vehicle inventory and general inflationary pressure, dealerships have been able to maintain a consistent level of sales satisfaction,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power.

The report found that when new-vehicle prices increased in 2021, customer satisfaction was buoyed by higher-than-expected trade-in values. Not so this year as new-vehicle inventories declined further, enabling a higher rate of dealers to charge more than Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). According to J. D. Power, the satisfaction index score for fairness of price paid declines year over year, while metrics for the variety of physical and online inventory plummeted in each of the past three years. 

“With the supply chain being an ongoing issue and with no near-term solution, dealerships have had to use additional tools at their disposal, such as special orders and more personal customer handling, to maintain sales satisfaction,” said Sutton. “However, when dealers charge more than MSRP, particularly with long-term loyal customers, they risk a potential long-term negative effect on customer advocacy and service business.” 

Another key study finding is that electric vehicle (EV) buyers continue to have less satisfying sales experiences than do buyers of traditional gas-powered vehicles in both the premium and mass market segments. For example, satisfaction among owners of mass market battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is 56 points lower than among owners of gas-powered vehicles (791 vs. 847, respectively) and satisfaction among owners of premium BEVs is 33 points lower than among owners of gas-powered vehicles (831 vs. 864, respectively).  

“If EVs are going to be the wave of the future, rapid improvements need to be made to close the gaps in factors such as product knowledge and vehicle delivery,” Sutton said. “There is no doubt that the products are coming, but from a customer purchase experience standpoint, the dealerships are just not there yet.”   

In terms of brand rankings, Alfa Romeo ranks highest in sales satisfaction among premium brands with a score of 833. Porsche (831) ranks second and Lexus (819) ranks third.  Buick ranks highest in sales satisfaction among mass market brands, with a score of 825. Dodge (816) ranks second and Subaru (804) ranks third.

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