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Cato: The big mistake car dealers make over and over

2012 Buick Verano

General Motors

The business of selling new cars seems straightforward enough and having done it, I'd argue it can be: find out what sort of vehicle the customer wants within a price range, offer a fair deal and sign a contract.

Communication, clear communication, is central to a process that does have a lot of give-and-take. Ah, if only it were that easy in the real world.

Maritz Research finds that too often, existing and potential future customers feel ignored by dealers and their sales people. The quiet is deafening and it's keeping new car customers on the sidelines.

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"Dealers aren't thinking beyond the sale," notes the Automotive Customer Journey Study released this month. "After dealerships closed the deal on a new vehicle, one in five people say they were not contacted right after the purchase."

What did new owners say, typically? "We never heard from the dealer after the sale; no service offers, no purchase follow-ups, nothing." Buyers say sales people typically call immediately after the deal to make sure there are no problems, but "No one ever calls 12-36 months later asking if everything is alright."

Which makes no sense.

"More customers are in the market than you'd think," says the study. "One year after purchasing a new vehicle, 40 per cent of customers are already thinking about their next purchase, even if it is a few years away." Maritz says buyers typically want an annual follow-up call. Contact perhaps on the anniversary of the purchase "would be a big plus," they say. It might even get the ball rolling on another sale.

In too many instances, that's not how the game works. I can tell you; I've been there. Staff turnover in dealerships is one of the problems. Many dealers have an annual sales staff turnover of 50 per cent, and in some cases turnover is much higher.

The revolving door for sales staff surely helps explain why Maritz reports that 75 per cent of customers surveyed were never contacted by their dealer or manufacturer when they were actively looking or thinking of buying a new vehicle. This despite the dealer knowing full well that the customer's lease or finance term is coming to an end.

Indeed, the Maritz research shows that 37 per cent of owners received absolutely no contact from the dealer during the ownership period. A stunning 50 per cent wanted it. Maritz argues that the conversation between dealers and customers should not stop with the sale. In two words, dealers should "keep talking" with customers. Keep talking before, during and after the sale, in fact.

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"The customer relationship starts long before a customer steps into the dealership," says Maritz, adding that dealers and manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the customer "experience is the best possible at the time of sale – and the years that follow."

If nothing else, dealers and their sales staff have plenty to talk about when it comes to new models, new technologies and new sales sweeteners. Deals of the Week chronicles the richest and most interesting offers right here, every Friday. This week?

Buick's popular Verano near-luxury sedan is getting a significant update for 2014. That's interesting, as is a discussion about how to move along leftover 2013s. On the latter, Buick has slapped on a $3,000 rebate which you can combine it with 2.99 per cent financing for 84 months.

Or Acura? Honda's luxury brand has something of a surprise offer on the all-new 2014 MDX: $2,000 factory rebate available with 3.99% financing for 60 months. The updated MDX only went on sale in the summer, so factory money on the table is unusual this early in the model year.

Hyundai, meanwhile, is planning to launch new versions of the Sonata and Genesis sedans early next year. So it's time to goose sales of the 2013s on lots today. The deal? A $5,500 factory rebate, $4,500 of which is available with 2.99 per cent financing for 84 months.

And then there is the 2013 Infiniti M35h hybrid. A $10,000 factory rebate is on offer, $2,500 of which is available with 2.90 per cent financing for 60 months.

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Any or all of these deals and product updates – with an explanation, not a hard sell – would serve as a reason for dealers to contact customers and potential customers. The research suggests owners would welcome the call.

Deals of the Week consulted with, and other sources on these offers. As usual, pricing information here is subject to change and dealer discounts vary, so consult your dealer for all the final details, including expiry dates for all offers.

2012 Buick Verano General Motors General Motors  

2013 Buick Verano (Click on the car name for details) 4 door Sedan, Leather

  • MSRP: $28,695
  • Freight, dealer prep, air conditioning tax: $1,650
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $1,250
  • Factory discount: $3,000 (GM Stackable Cash factory-to-dealer rebate)
  • Taxable subtotal: $26,095
  • Total price with 13% HST: $29,487.35
  • $3,000 rebate available with 2.99% financing for 84 months

2014 Acura MDX. Honda Honda  

2014 Acura MDX AWD 4 door, Tech Pkg:

  • MSRP: $59,990
  • Freight, dealer prep and air conditioning tax: $2,095
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $2,350
  • Factory discount: $2,000 (Acura Trading Dollars factory-to-dealer rebate)
  • Taxable subtotal: $57,735
  • Total price with 13% HST: $65,240.55
  • $2,000 factory rebate available with 3.99% financing for 60 months

2013 Hyundai Sonata Hyundai Hyundai  

2013 Hyundai Sonata 4 door Sedan 2.0T, Auto, Limited w/Nav

  • MSRP: $34,199
  • Freight, dealer prep, AC tax: $1,750
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $1,200
  • Factory discount: $5,500 (Hyundai Stackable/Dealer Cash factory-to-dealer rebate)
  • Taxable subtotal: $29,249
  • Total price with 13% HST: $33,051.37
  • $4,500 factory incentive available with 2.99% financing for 84 months

2012 Infiniti M Hybrid Nissan Nissan  

2013 Infiniti M35h 4 door Sedan RWD Hybrid

  • MSRP: $68,500
  • Freight, PDI, AC tax: $2,095
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $3,000
  • Factory discount: $10,000 (Infiniti Non-stackable Merchandising Dollars factory-to-dealer rebate)
  • Taxable subtotal: $57,595
  • Total price with 13% HST: $65,082.35
  • $2,500 factory rebate available with 2.90% financing for 60 months

Pricing information source: and Calculations based on Ontario customers. Please note that while the information above is accurate at the time of publication, incentives are given at the discretion of individual dealers, and may be changed or discontinued at any time. Where noted, "dealer discounts" are negotiated with the customer on a case-by-case basis. Unhaggle Savings are actual discounts received by Unhaggle customers.

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