Sales and awareness of certified pre-owned vehicles continue to increase, despite competition from aggressive new-vehicle incentives, according to the JD Power and Associates 2003 used vehicle sales and certification study.

The study, which measures the satisfaction and experiences of owners of late-model used vehicles that have undergone a dealership certification process, finds that sales of certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles has increased to 38% - up 3% over 2002. Consumer awareness of CPO programs also continues to increase. 57% of all used-vehicle buyers are now familiar with the programs before beginning the shopping process -- up from 54% in 2002.

"The late-model used-vehicle market has been directly affected by the heavy use of incentives over the past two years as potential buyers are lured by the alternative of purchasing a new vehicle," said a JD Power spokesman. "Yet, the market for certified pre-owned vehicles continues to grow."

The study finds that CPO buyers are more satisfied with their vehicles and the dealership sales experience than are non-certified buyers. In turn, CPO buyers indicate a much higher likelihood to return to the selling dealership for repairs, routine maintenance and future purchases.

On average, luxury buyers paid nearly $US3,000 more for their certified used vehicle than did buyers of non-certified luxury brands, while non-luxury buyers paid $1,000 more.

For the second year in a row, the Lexus certified pre-owned programme ranks highest in customer satisfaction by a substantial margin. Lexus tops the industry in areas such as shopping experience and vehicle quality, as well as programme features accompanying certification.

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