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It is possible to have a more pleasant new car buying experience

Customer waiting for some action
Customer waiting for some action
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New car shoppers can look forward to a more pleasant buying experience if the new car dealer community implements the “60 minute” sale. A recent article in the trade publication Automotive News reports that a growing number of new car dealers are changing the old and time-consuming practices of how they treat the new car buyer.

My last new car purchase was a good example of what needs to be corrected. The wife and I waited in the salesman’s cubicle while he took purchase offers to his sales manager. Each trip took about fifteen minutes because his manager was always on the phone. We waited over an hour for the used car manager to appraise our trade-in. We waited for 30 minutes to see the finance & insurance (F&I) guy. This was a wasted step since we told our sales rep that we already had our bank financing and insurance coverage in place. The F&I guy wouldn’t let us go until we listened to why we needed to have the dealership’s preferred financing and insurance.

When we finally took delivery of the vehicle (not the color we ordered and missing some options that we paid for) we were asked about our buying experience. “I would rather have root canal work done since it is cheaper, quicker and less painful.” The dealer’s Customer Satisfaction representative was not amused.

New car dealers are beginning to realize that customers want a fast, transparent buying experience. Today’s transactions average more than two hours with many running more than three hours. A transaction time is defined as the time between a customer settling on a specific vehicle (after test drive) and the time he or she leaves the F&I office. The goal is to reduce customer wait times that can hurt profits and have a negative impact on customer satisfaction surveys.

Shoppers, especially those younger than 30, have been conditioned by visits to Apple Stores and other top retailers to expect a smooth, professional buying experience that respects their time and research preparation. Almost invariably, the customer has a mobile phone or tablet handy to comparison-shop a competitor. Fed-up shoppers leave dealerships before closing a deal more often than managers would care to admit. Today, a salesperson takes a risk when leaving a shopper unattended while the salesperson runs repeatedly to the manager during a price negotiation, or while the customer waits outside the F&I office.

Many people dread the negotiating process. A few dealers avoid this by having a “one price” policy. Sales consultants are compensated based on the number of cars they sell rather than the gross profit of the sales. That rewards salespeople for steering customers to the vehicle that best fits their needs, rather than pushing the most expensive vehicles. It also allows the sales transaction to be completed in less than 60 minutes.

Shopping for and purchasing a new car or truck should be a pleasant experience. Hopefully, dealers will implement the processes necessary to make it happen. The sooner, the better.

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