Buying a car should be an informative and exciting experience. Vehicles are an expression of individuality and freedom and are often our second most expensive purchase. Unfortunately, the car dealership showroom has become a dreaded place. The current car buying process offers stale coffee, high-pressure salespeople, and creates a desire to be anywhere but in a car dealership. Americans have signaled loud and clear that they want to see major changes made to the current car buying process.
Autotrader conducted a study that found only 17 out of 4002 potential car buyers – less than 1% – are happy with the current car buying process. The disdain for the current buying process results in many potential buyers researching at home over the Internet rather than perusing their local dealer’s lot. According to CNBC, “the average buyer visits just 1.6 auto dealerships while car shopping, down from 10 years ago when buyers visited an average of five dealerships.” The Autotrader study found that 72 percent of consumers would visit dealerships more frequently if the process was improved and 53% would purchase a vehicle more often. By improving the process, there is much to gain and little to lose.
How can automakers improve the car buying process? Car and Driver believes that the dealer experience can improve if automakers emulate Apple’s approach. “The Apple Store ethos—seamless customer interaction, effortless problem solving, speedy service—has become the benchmark for retailers of all stripes. This customer experience is as integral to Apple’s success as its elegantly simple product designs, compelling the company’s faithful to line up to buy its new products.” By ditching the high-pressure atmosphere of the current car dealership and focusing on superior customer experience, automakers can immeasurably improve the experience for potential car buyers.
Surveyed car buyers routinely show that they strongly wish to avoid the haggling process, which often leaves them feeling like they are being taken advantage of. If dealers adopt the practice of fixed pricing, their salespeople can worry less about the bottom line for the automakers and more on improving the customer’s experience. Fortune magazine believes that car buyers have long waited for the fixed price revolution. “Unlike two decades ago, car selling may actually be ready to make the leap into the 21st century. Offering better service is a far better incentive for customers than ‘That’s our price — take it or leave it.’”
Americans love their vehicles and they should love the process of buying a new car just as much. While there have been some recent improvements, the auto industry has traditionally been resistant to change and consumers are visiting dealers less often as a result. By focusing on customer satisfaction and adopting the practice of fixed pricing, Americans can make informed decisions, relax, and enjoy the car buying process once again.