Car companies are introducing advanced technology features to new models at such a rate that, according to the latest JD Power study, that they're in danger of leaving their owners behind.
The 28th annual edition of the JD Power US Sales Satisfaction Index, published Thursday, finds that the car companies that owners rate most highly are those that take the greatest steps to demystify these features for potential owners and that are proactive in helping buyers activate and customize settings. For example, showing a customer how to connect a smartphone to the car's on-board display.
In order to arrive at a score out of 1000 points, JD Power measures satisfaction across a number of factors including how the buyer perceived the salesperson, the delivery process and the quality of the dealership or garage where the car was purchased.
It found that satisfaction is linked to technological understanding. When a potential car buyer works with both the salesperson and a product specialist, average satisfaction rates rise by three points.
And it is for this reason that the use of product specialists is becoming more widespread, particularly at the top end of the market -- 19 percent of luxury car buyers said that they worked with both a salesperson and a product specialist, compared with 15 percent of mass market car brand buyers.
"With such tech-heavy vehicles today, introducing product specialists into the sales process helps improve the delivery process and customer understanding of how to operate key features," said Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. "Dealerships need to be mindful when dividing a customer's time between a salesperson, product specialist, and the finance and insurance representative. That's a lot of customer touch points. Adding more time to the sales process usually has a negative effect on sales satisfaction; thus, dealers need to ensure an integrated approach that respects a customer's time."
The highest-ranking luxury brand in this year's survey, Mercedes-Benz, is also the most technologically advanced, but is clearly taking the right steps to put potential owners at ease as it managed to score 761 points, 12 more than second-placed Infiniti and 13 more than third-placed Jaguar.
Lexus, with a score of 741, achieved the fourth highest points total of any luxury car brand and Porsche rounded out the top five with 738.
In the mass-market category, Mini came top with 727 points, followed by Buick (726), Chevrolet (689), GMC (696) and Fiat (684).
The study was based on the responses of 29,805 buyers who purchased or leased a new vehicle in April or May 2014 and was conducted between July and September.
As well as rating the experience of buying the car they currently own, respondents are also asked to rank the experience of shopping for other brands and models that they considered before making their final purchase.