Car buyers happier with the process in 2023, Cox Automotive study finds

A new study by Cox Automotive reveals that car buyers were more satisfied with the vehicle shopping and buying experience in 2023, after two years of declines. The study attributes the improvement to the better inventory levels, the return of discounts, and the increased use of digital solutions that made the process more efficient and seamless.

The study, titled the 2023 Car Buyer Journey Study, was released on January 31, 2024, by Cox Automotive, a leading provider of automotive products and services. The study is based on surveys of nearly 3,000 consumers who bought a new or used vehicle in the 12 months ending August 2023. The study also includes surveys of dealers and industry experts.

The study examines various aspects of the vehicle buying journey, such as the triggers, the research, the shopping, the purchase, and the satisfaction. The study also covers different segments of the market, such as new and used vehicles, electric vehicles, certified pre-owned vehicles, and different generations of buyers.

The study aims to provide insights and recommendations to the automotive industry on how to improve the vehicle buying experience and meet the evolving needs and expectations of the consumers.

The key findings and the implications

The study reveals that overall satisfaction with the vehicle buying journey increased significantly in 2023, with 69% of consumers being highly satisfied with the process. This is a notable increase from the 61% reported in the 2022 study, and close to the peak of 72% in 2020.

The study suggests that the main factors that contributed to the higher satisfaction in 2023 were:

  • The improved inventory levels, which gave buyers more choices and options, and reduced the frustration and the waiting time.
  • The return of discounts and incentives, which made buyers feel more confident and comfortable with the price and the value of the vehicle.
  • The increased adoption of digital solutions, such as online research, shopping, financing, and delivery, which made the process more convenient, flexible, and personalized.

The study also reveals some challenges and opportunities for the automotive industry, such as:

  • The growing demand for electric vehicles, which accounted for 8% of new-vehicle sales in 2023, up from 5% in 2022. The study shows that electric vehicle buyers were younger, wealthier, and more tech-savvy than average, and that they had different preferences and expectations for the vehicle and the buying process.
  • The rising importance of customer loyalty and retention, which was influenced by the quality of the vehicle, the service, and the communication. The study shows that 64% of buyers were loyal to the same brand, and 57% were loyal to the same dealer, in 2023. The study also shows that buyers who were highly satisfied with the buying process were more likely to recommend the dealer and the brand to others.
  • The need for continuous innovation and improvement, which was driven by the changing consumer behavior and the competitive landscape. The study shows that buyers were more informed, empowered, and demanding than ever, and that they expected a fast, easy, and transparent buying process. The study also shows that buyers were more open to new players and models, such as online retailers, subscription services, and peer-to-peer platforms.

The conclusion and the recommendations

The study concludes that the vehicle buying journey in 2023 was a positive and satisfying experience for most consumers, thanks to the improved market conditions and the enhanced digital capabilities. The study also concludes that the vehicle buying journey in 2023 was a dynamic and diverse phenomenon, with different segments, trends, and opportunities.

The study recommends that the automotive industry should:

  • Monitor and anticipate the consumer needs and preferences, and tailor the products and services accordingly.
  • Leverage and integrate the digital solutions, and offer a seamless and consistent omnichannel experience.
  • Focus and invest on the customer loyalty and retention, and build long-term and profitable relationships.
  • Innovate and differentiate, and offer unique and compelling value propositions.

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