If a vehicle is your second largest purchase, why do so many people dread the car buying experience? Autotrader conducted a “Car Buyer of the Future” study that found that less than 1% of people find the current model of the purchasing process to be the best. Dealers have little incentive to make substantive changes, as their collective total revenues topped $806 billion last year. If more people would rather pay a visit to the dentist than endure the current car buying process, there is room for improvement with the existing model.
When imagining the process of purchasing a vehicle, it is not unreasonable to picture a pack of fast-talking salespeople prowling a dealership’s floor eager to upsell. In this climate, the actual vehicle takes a backseat to the desire to maximize commission, and any consumer confidence in the process fades in the rearview mirror. According to the Economist, surveys have discovered that consumers “find the experience of visiting a dealer boring, confrontational, and bureaucratic.”
Surveys have shown that consumers prefer to argue at the dinner table and not in the dealer showroom. Quibbling over price has soured many on the dealership process, which has led to the advent of fixed pricing. Digital Trends believes that there are significant benefits to fixed pricing. Knowing the price ahead of time allows for a pressure free experience, and the elimination of commission makes for a better all-around experience.
In the past, a dealer was a great repository for information on new vehicles. With the rise of the Internet, however, that information is readily available and car buyers are more informed throughout the process. Autotrader found that 79% of shoppers used the internet at some point in the shopping process. Today, more so than in decades gone by, the consumers can walk into a dealer on a level playing field when it comes to information.
The Internet has allowed buyers to do research on their own, and accordingly, they are visiting dealers less frequently. The Economist notes that while a decade ago consumers visited dealers an average five times prior to purchase, that number has dropped to 1.6 visits today. Additionally, direct-to-consumer sales have become an increasingly attractive model for both manufacturers and buyers. That is not to say dealers cannot add value when buyers do stop in. With so many high-tech options available, consumers want “someone to talk them through all the features that cars come with these days.” Dealers can still provide a valuable service to an already informed buyer.
Dealers are not going anywhere anytime soon, but with such high levels of dissatisfaction in the purchasing process, one can expect significant changes will be made in the future. A trip to a dealer should be an enjoyable, informative experience and should not feel like a contentious court hearing. With so many potential buyers already using the Internet in the process, further advances can, and should, be made by dealers to improve the experience through technology. When the smartphone was introduced, it would have been impossible to fathom that it would transform the taxi and hotel industries, but companies like Uber and Air BNB have done just that. Instead of clinging to an antiquated process, the automotive industry should embrace technological advances to make the car buying process more enjoyable.