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Automotive Sales Could Grow 24% if Retail Experience Improved

buying a car

56% would buy more often if the dealership process was not so difficult

New research from DrivingSales identifies how the growing gap between consumer expectations and the current automotive buying process is suppressing car sales volume

NEW YORK -- March 31, 2015: Automotive sales could grow up to 24% if the retail experience improves, according to key findings released today from a new research initiative from DrivingSales. The DrivingSales Consumer Experience Study is based on a 16 month-long ethnographic and quantitative research initiative with over 1,300 shopper and buyers and looks at the rational and emotional factors that cause modern automotive shoppers to connect, or disconnect, with automotive dealers in the buying process.

"Yesterday's formula for automotive retail success is deterring consumers and suppressing sales volume. Our research shows the key to sales success today is building trust through an open and transparent customer experience at every stage of their buying process," said Jared Hamilton, Founder & CEO of DrivingSales. "Our findings are a clarion call for change in how cars are retailed and provide practical guidance to retailers and manufacturers on how to bridge this customer expectation gap and advance the industry."

The study uncovers profound changes in consumer expectations, driven by their experiences in other retail sectors, that up-end the current conventional wisdom in dealerships on marketing and sales "best practices." The study also identifies how the expectation gap between dealers and consumers has grown to such a level that a fundamental change in the consumer experience is required if dealerships expect to remain competitive over the next 5-10 years.

A selection from the hundreds of insights collected include:

--99 of 100 automotive shoppers begin their purchase journey expecting it to be a "hassle" driven in large part by their experience, and that of friends/family, with retailers seeking to control the buying process to the retailer's objectives

--Shoppers are exposed to dozens of conflicting influences making them wary and distrustful, driving them to seek what they perceive as objective information from trusted sources – primarily trusted friends and family and independent third party sites

--Shoppers are keeping dealers and sales people at a proverbial arms length until late in the purchase process. When they're ready to interact, 61% initiate contact by walking into the dealership without prior contact

--This distrust puts the consumer on a hair trigger as they engage with the dealer, 50% will walk out of a dealership if the dealer requires a test drive before providing a price, 43% if personal information is required

--56% of shoppers said they would buy more often if the dealership process was not so difficult - the impact of this retail aversion was quantified at a potential increase in sales volume of 24%

DrivingSales is uniquely qualified to bring this perspective because of its position as the largest online community, education and research business dedicated entirely to automotive retail. Two thirds of all US dealers leverage DrivingSales' insights in their operations. DrivingSales was founded by a third-generation dealer, 36-year-old Jared Hamilton, who has committed his career to helping dealers evolve to survive and thrive through the radical changes wrought by the internet. This research is offered to the industry so that dealers have the insights to evolve their businesses together with their customers to continue to play the vital role they have for the past 100 years.

Hamilton will be revealing a summary of the results of this research in his keynote address at the DrivingSales President's Club event at the New York Grand Hyatt on April 1, 2015. Additional findings and recommendations from the full research study will be shared with the industry over the coming months. They will include recommended changes to dealership marketing and sales processes and insights into specific segments of buyers. Interested parties can keep connected with these findings at

Some advanced dealers and groups have already seen and acted upon many of the trends uncovered by this research. As part of this multi-year research initiative, DrivingSales will continue to research evolving automotive retail practices and share results achieved.