The future is now for improving car-buying process – and here’s how

Selling cars is not just about, well, sales.

Many dealerships know this, but an Autotrader study released earlier this year provides more clarity: Only 17 of 4,002 car shoppers and buyers surveyed prefer the current car-buying process.

That’s less than one-half of one percent – a percentage which dealers might find scary.

“While there is good work going on right now to adapt decades-old sales processes, consumers are telling us that we as an industry are not moving fast enough,” said Jared Rowe, president of Autotrader, an online automotive research tool and marketplace based in Atlanta.

090215 IL The future is now for improving car-buying process – and here’s how

Among other results, the Car Buyer of the Future study describes four areas in which major change is needed in the buying process, according to car shoppers and buyers surveyed. Those areas comprise test drives, deal structuring, financing paperwork and vehicle service.

Following is a summary of each of the areas in which consumers most want change:


These will still play an important role, with 88 percent of consumers saying they would not purchase a car without test driving it first. But 81 percent of consumers prefer a different test-drive experience than the traditional test drive in which they are accompanied by a sales person. Instead, consumers want more convenience and less pressure, including the ability to test drive multiple vehicles in a single place and taking a test drive with a product specialist instead of a sales person.


Consumers indicate that they would like to see a big change in the way they go about negotiating, structuring deals online before arriving at the dealership. Of those who liked the idea of conducting the process online, 56 percent want the ability to start the negotiation on their own terms and 45 percent would like to remain anonymous until they lock in the deal structure.


Seventy-two percent of customers want to complete their credit applications and financing paperwork online to save time at the dealership – a top frustration among car buyers – and about 71 percent to reduce pressure in filling out paperwork. Moving paperwork online and enabling consumers to complete it on their own time would greatly enhance the in-dealership experience and customer satisfaction, which another study showed begins declining after 90 minutes at the dealership.


When it comes to servicing their vehicles, 83 percent of consumers indicate that they would like to have the ability to access a network of local service centers that honor service agreements. Driven by a desire for convenience, 76 percent of those who prefer local service networks want to go to a service center close by and 63 percent want to be able to service the vehicle anywhere.

“In the future, while the actual components of car shopping and buying will remain the same, the execution will look different,” said the Autotrader report. “Convenience and shared control of the process will be essential to earning a car shopper’s business and loyalty. An important consideration … is that the future is imminent and the evolution of the process should begin today.”

The benefits are clear, according to Autotrader, “Dealers and manufacturers who focus on creating – and ultimately deliver – a better shopping and buying experience can reap significant benefits.”

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