Jaguar and Lexus have ranked tied for top place in sales satisfaction in a US market JD Power survey. The two brands made their biggest improvements in the areas of dealership facility and price.

Jaguar improved its 'sales satisfaction' score by 24 points over 2003 and received particularly strong ratings from customers for the salesperson while Lexus improved 14 index points and led the industry in dealership facility and delivery.

But the survey found that, overall, customer satisfaction with the vehicle delivery process has declined, particularly regarding the cleanliness of the vehicle, timeliness of delivery and the amount of time the salesperson spent explaining vehicle features.

"At a minimum, customers expect their new vehicle will be clean and in good condition," said a JD Power spokesman. "Surprisingly, this is not always the case. Declining gross margins for dealers are placing more pressure on salespeople to make the sale and, consequently, they are too often ignoring delivery. Since delivery is typically the last contact the salesperson has with the customer, this can have a dramatic effect on sales satisfaction with the dealership."

Although new-vehicle buyers paid more for their vehicles compared to 2003, satisfaction with the dealership's vehicle prices actually increased, due largely to lower interest rates and aggressive financing incentives.

The study found that the median price paid for a new vehicle in 2004 was $US26,000, up from $25,500 in 2003, but the average interest rate on car loans fell from 4.8% to 4.5%.

Eleven percent of buyers financed their new vehicle with a 0% interest rate in 2004 compared to 9% while the average length of a new-vehicle loan has increased from 58 months to 59 months.

"Buyers are willing to pay a higher sticker price as long as the interest rate is low and they can afford the payments," the spokesman said.

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