USA: New vehicle buyers trust dealers more than doctors, lawyers and journalists - survey

By just-auto.com editorial team | 31 January 2005

New vehicle buyers rank their franchise new car dealer nearly as trustworthy as law enforcement and more so than the health care, insurance and legal industries and the news media, according to a survey released at the weekend by Automotive Retailing Today (ART), a coalition of major automobile manufacturers and dealer organizations.

The survey's release coincided with the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans.

"It's gratifying that our customers acknowledge the effort we put into winning their confidence and trust," ART chairman Alan Starling said. "Buyers are telling us they like what they encounter at their local dealers, and women and minority buyers give us especially high marks."

In the new research, conducted by Harris Interactive, car purchasers rated the trustworthiness of their car dealership 68.4 on a 100-point scale, nearly as high as the score they gave to law enforcement (69.5), and higher than the health care (52.8), insurance (48.9) and legal (48) industries and the media (43.8). Car buyers also trusted their dealership more than the motor dealership industry in general (46.5), revealing that stereotypes about the industry diminish as customers experience the dealership.

"The latest survey results should put to rest once and for all the old perceptions about automobile dealers," Starling noted. "The high trust ratings from our buyers are particularly gratifying. This is a highly competitive business, so dealers who earn their customers' trust and respect have a strategic advantage."

The survey noted an inconsistency between those who have recently made a purchase and those who have not. Car buyers gave their dealers an average trust score of 68 out of 100 - compared to a score of 41 for dealers in general from those who have not shopped for a new vehicle.

The research also shows that the greater the interaction with today's auto dealers, the more positive the customer's experience. Sixty-three percent of those who shopped but did not buy indicated that their experience was positive, compared to 81% of those who purchased a vehicle.

ART encourages consumers to educate themselves from as many sources as possible-including manufacturers, dealers and independent third parties-before undertaking the purchase experience to make it more efficient. Its own website now lists top tips and links to help consumers make savvy purchases.

"Today's new vehicle buyers arrive in showrooms smarter and better prepared to discuss what they want," Starling said. "We are pleased with this heightened awareness and participation, and dealer personnel are emphasising full disclosure and openness as trust-building factors."

The telephone survey of 1,664 individuals was conducted in June and July 2004.