Dealers: 'Just Say NO' to No-Test-Drive Buyers

A new report released by Maritz Research recently claims that four in 10 customers are not even test driving their cars before purchasing. This is an astounding number of consumers, even if half of them didn’t tell the truth.

This phenomenon of customers bypassing the test drive can actually cause a backlash of issues for dealerships. How so?

Let’s start with design trends for vehicles in the 2013 or 2012 class.

On many models, back windows have a much shorter rise, and front headrests and side mirrors are larger. The team test drives cars 40 weeks out of the year for our HER & HIS Car Review section, and these three vehicle features can negatively impact visibility and contribute to blind spot hazards for today’s drivers.

Both complaints are valid, but not solid reasons to return a car, since these customers willingly said “I’ll take it,” got their financing order, and drove off into the proverbial sunset. Furthermore, both also said that they experienced no pressure from dealership personnel to buy.

These customers – one in St. Louis and the other in Pittsburgh – contacted their respective dealers, and, in both cases, the GM’s were sympathetic and willing to get them into another, same-priced vehicle. However, neither were satisfied and both:

1) Wrote highly negative reviews about the dealership on multiple dealer rating sites; 2) Gave highly negative CSI scores about their experience there; and 3) Are pursuing legal action against these two businesses.

Do we buy a house without walking through it and having it appraised or inspected? Of course not.

My suggestion is to have an unwritten policy with your sales team about the importance of test drives. While it may be fun and expedient to move quickly to a sale, these no-test-drive customers can hurt your dealership in the long run. While it’s not practical to turn away business, when a customer insists on buying a model without previously driving it (with you or elsewhere), or after driving it for only 10 minutes, note this on the paperwork so that you have something to reference should that customer return.

Encouraging substantive test drives into your sales process is best. “At Day Chevrolet we insist that they take as many test drives with as many vehicles as they like while at the dealership. It is imperative that they feel free to test drive various makes and models so that they can be completely satisfied with their ultimate purchase,” says Vic Olive, General Manager at Day Chevrolet in Pittsburgh.

Ford and Lexus are taking a similar approach to helping buyers get to know their vehicles.

The instant gratification of a quick sale may not feel so gratifying a week or two after the transaction when the (online) complaints commence.

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