Mahindra and Toyota Rank at Top Level in J D Power SSI Ratings 

As shopping traffic for new vehicles has increased at showrooms in India, dealers have focused on maximizing sales conversions rather than providing a satisfying customer purchase experience, according to the latest J D Power Asia Pacific 2015 India Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study.

Now in its 16th year, the study examines seven factors that contribute to new-vehicle owners’ overall satisfaction with their sales experience (listed in order of importance): delivery process, delivery timing, salesperson, sales initiation, dealer facility, paperwork and deal. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Overall sales satisfaction in the mass market segment is 851, a 6-point decline from 2014. Nearly one in five (18%) customers is dissatisfied with several critical aspects of the purchase process, including negotiations for their new vehicle, delivery commitments and the overall delivery process.

“Intense competition and pressure to maximize sales conversions has shifted focus from a customer centric approach to a sales-driven approach for dealers, impacting customer satisfaction,” said Mohit Arora, ED,  J D Power Asia Pacific, Singapore. “OEMs and dealerships need to provide a pressure-free environment that is conducive to sales, which can lead to a positive and lasting impression of the brand and dealerships in the minds of customers.”

Study findings show that purchase reasons and shopping behaviour vary significantly across demographics. A larger proportion of younger buyers (30 years and younger) place a greater emphasis on vehicle design, performance and features as purchase criteria for their vehicle, compared with all other age groups combined (43% vs 35%, respectively). Additionally, using the internet as a source of information for vehicle purchase is higher among younger buyers than among all other age groups combined (32% vs 26%).

KEY FINDINGS

• Satisfaction with the delivery process and delivery timing declines the most y-o-y, dropping by 9 points in each factor.

• The average time for vehicle delivery has increased to 11 days after booking in 2015 from 9 days in 2014. Shoppers expect to be shown the same model variant that they intend to purchase. Currently, non-compliance on this aspect of the purchase process is 16 per cent, resulting in a 40-point decline in overall satisfaction.

• More than one-third (39%) of new-vehicle owners visited showrooms at least three times during their shopping process, up by 4 per cent from 2014. Satisfaction among these owners is 25 points lower than among those who visited showrooms two or fewer times.

• Among new-vehicle owners, who are highly satisfied with their purchase experience (sales satisfaction scores 922 and above), 82 per cent say they “definitely will” recommend their purchase dealer to family and friends and 74 per cent say they “definitely will” purchase the same vehicle make in the future. Conversely, only 41 per cent of highly dissatisfied owners (scores 801 and below) say they “definitely will” recommend their purchase dealer to family and friends and 37 per cent say they “definitely will” repurchase the same brand.

Study Rankings

Toyota and Mahindra rank highest, in a tie, with a score of 872 each. Toyota performs particularly well in the sales initiation factor and Mahindra performs highest in the paperwork factor.

Perceptions of Auto Brands Improve in India

Meanwhile, all automotive brands post an increase in brand influence score according to another study by J D Power, viz., 2015 India Brand Influence and Positioning Study (BIPS) released on September 15. Further, brands that relatively underperformed in 2014 have shown the highest increase in influence. 

The study, now in its second year, measures automotive brand influence in India of mass market passenger car brands, based on consumer awareness and perceptions of the brand. Strong brand influence has a positive effect on purchase intent for a particular brand, as brand influence scores correlate highly with brand consideration and purchase rates. The study also segments the market using psychographic, demographic and behavioural attributes to help automakers identify and understand who their best prospects are in the new-car market. 

Maruti Suzuki ranks highest in brand influence with a score of 839 (on a 1,000-point scale). Hyundai ranks second (767) and Toyota third (744). 

The brand influence gap between the brand with the highest score and the one with the lowest score narrows to 259 points in 2015 from 272 in 2014. All brands with scores below 700 in the 2014 study improve by double-digits in 2015. Mahindra improves the most (+44 points), followed by Renault (+28) and Nissan (+23). 

“Consumers are likely to have a more favourable opinion of a brand that has been in the market for several years vs one that is a recent entrant,” said Mohit Arora, Executive Director, J D Power Asia Pacific, Singapore. “For a relatively new entrant, the progression of brand influence depends on how a brand engages and builds relationships with its initial base of customers, thereby creating positive word-of-mouth.” 

Mohit Arora notes that the key to sustained progress in building long-term brand influence is for automakers to identify what appeals most to their target segment and consistently communicate their core message to that segment. 

The study also finds a marked difference in the perceived image between owners and non-owners of a brand. In general, owners have a much more favourable opinion of a brand compared with non-owners; however, Maruti Suzuki stands out as one of the few brands where the gap is relatively small. At the other end of the spectrum are brands like Fiat, Nissan and Renault, where the image gaps between owners and non-owners are sizeable.

Key Findings 

• Datsun (555) and Mitsubishi (580) are among brands with the lowest influence. 

• The percentage of customers who indicate they regularly post ratings/reviews for others to view online has increased notably to 55 per cent in 2015 from 51 per cent in 2014. One-third of car buyers in the Western region of India indicate they regularly post ratings/reviews for others to view online, which is higher than for the other regions. 

• The proportion of vehicle owners in India who say they “want to buy a brand that reflects my social status” has increased to 79 per cent in 2015 from 71 per cent in 2014. 

• Proportion of vehicle owners in India who say they “prefer to buy a vehicle made/ assembled locally” has increased to 80 per cent in 2015 from 74 per cent in 2014. 

The 2015 India Brand Influence and Positioning Study is based on interviews with 8,507 car owners who have owned their vehicles from 30 to 42 months and who were asked to compare two vehicle brands. The study was fielded from January through April 2015 across 30 cities in India.

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