Are Auto Dealerships Breaking the Deal?

Are dealers breaking the deal? SAI’s mystery shopping reveals that car dealerships may be busy breaking more deals than closing them, especially when it comes to ethnic buyers. After weeks and months of online research, entering an auto dealership is a make or break point of “human” contact.

Granted, dealerships are busy with a stream of customers trickling in, with or without appointments. Especially, most auto dealerships that are attractive to Asian American consumers (that rules out the ultra high end brands) can be likened to Ross Dress for Less, where you find noisy kids creating a ruckus in fitting rooms. Sales crew most certainly has a lot to deal with. Yet, for a walk-in customer, he is the first. That’s the first gap in expectations.

Asian American families enter dealership doors with host of emotions, including anticipation, excitement, uncertainty, preconceived notions formed by reviews or even nervousness. It’s common for first generation immigrants to buy their first car from a friend/colleague or relative, and this may very well be their first new car purchase. A customary welcome followed by a long unattended wait quickly dampens enthusiasm. Worse still, if you are asked to take a walk along with parked inventory to see what you like in scorching 110 degrees, chances are you would simply walk (happened to a SAI mystery shopper at a leading dealership in Phoenix, AZ). A greater deal breaker, however, is often the lack of understanding of cultural customs, mindsets and expectations.

Asian American car buyers are entering that door with not just deep pockets, but well-researched dealership ratings, peer reviews, and brand perceptions carried forth from home countries. A one size fits all conversation just ain’t gonna cut it. For instance, Asian Indians are one of the wealthiest in the country with annual HHIs double that of mainstream America households. Yet, often they don’t look it. They are humble, wearing simple attires and don’t look like they could possibly do a cash transaction same day. Furthermore, this segment is an extremely tech savvy and aware consumer. You have to give them more than they already know about their vehicle of interest. You have to engage them intellectually, and tell them what they do not know. This will earn their respect.