Low interest rates and manufacturer-sponsored financing incentives have fueled a jump in the number of consumers who finance their vehicle and raised the overall satisfaction of new-vehicle buyers with the sales process.
That's according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2002 Sales Satisfaction Index Study which is based on more than 39,000 responses from buyers and lessees of new vehicles.
The percentage of respondents financing their vehicles increased from 48% percent in 2001 to 54% in 2002.
Meanwhile, leasing dropped from 27% to just 20%. That is leasing's lowest rate in nearly a decade.
While favorable pricing has helped to increase consumer satisfaction with the automotive sales process overall, it is more apparent among those who finance their purchase than among those who lease or pay cash.
The study also finds that consumers continue to prefer a hassle-free new-vehicle sales experience that features non-negotiable retail pricing.
Saturn, the only automotive brand to offer non-negotiable pricing since the brand was introduced in the early 1990s, tops the study's satisfaction index for the third year in a row.
After Saturn, eight of the next 10 makes in the sales satisfaction ranking are luxury brands. They are Cadillac, Lincoln, Lexus, and Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz (tied), respectively.
The study, now in its 16th year, also reveals that the speed with which a customer is able to complete their transaction is directly linked to satisfaction.
Buyers are most frustrated with wasted time, spending on average nearly three hours completing the deal at the selling dealership.