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William Maley

Industry News: A Growing Number Of New Car Buyers Skip The Test Drive

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William Maley

Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

August 14, 2012

A new study conducted by Maritz Research finds that 11.4% of new car buyers are skipping the test drive. The implication for skipping the test drive are due to more consumers doing their research on the internet (8 out of 10 consumers the study found) and the universal dislike of the car sales practice.

"I just find it quite fascinating and a little baffling. As cliché as perhaps it sounds, there's that new-car smell that needs to be experienced firsthand and cannot be experienced over the Internet," said Chris Travell, vice president of strategic consulting for Maritz Research.

Dealers aren't happy with this news. The test drive is one tactic used to get people excited enough to part with their hard earned cash.

"My manager said, 'The feel of the wheel will seal the deal,' " said Philip Reed, a former dealership representative who now serves as senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com.

The test drive can also tell a potential buyer whether they're making the right decision or not.

"Everything that you read isn't necessarily true. There's nothing online that tells you how that car feels. I enforce it with the salespeople that they have to at least offer a test-drive with every customer," said Ken Thomas, general manager of Telegraph Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Taylor, MI.

Source: Detroit Free Press

William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.


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There is not a single car I have bought that I did not test drive first. Why would anyone skip the test drive? It is a car, not a video game. . . . especially if you are going from one car maker to another (say Hyundai to Honda), or one type of car to another (say minivan to Camaro).

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I think Olds has it...

A car is seen more and more as a generic appliance, and for those people, internet reviews are probably adequate.

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I think Olds has it...

A car is seen more and more as a generic appliance, and for those people, internet reviews are probably adequate.

Yep... FWD 4 cyl automatic 4dr appliances are pretty much all the same, just different colors and different styling details from different brands. Many Genericans would be happy if they could buy/lease their appliance from a website and have it delivered to their door without the hassle of going to a dealer.

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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riviera- a lot of the dope teens and pups these days who didn't get driver's licenses right away or were too consumed with gadgets, who follow the online reviews like it was a smartphone, they might be the ones not test driving. they have no clue to evaluate anything in their life themselves.

People rolling leases point, too....very valid.

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Pople in America by and large have forgotten how to think for themselves...

  • Upvote 1

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I'm not sure I really see a lot of importance in a test drive anymore. For the most part, I consider most modern FWD cars to handle close enough alike that I seriously doubt I would need to consider it. Its going to plow through curves and accelerate as fast as the traction control and rubber are going to allow. My biggest concerns are driver comfort, overall size and flat storage area, an engine that can get in front of traffic, aggressive styling that appeals to me and finally, cost. All things I can judge, for the most part, without turning a key. My less cared for points are handling, safety, fuel economy and resale value... probably in that order. In the past, a test drive was definitely not needed, as I would rent cars I was interested in.

OTOH, RWD cars do handle uniquely enough I'd want to take a test drive... but preferably without the salesman. Of course, in the past, my RWD choices have been so limited, again, why bother? I would have gotten a G8 or a ? ? ? another G8. In general, I'm either going to like the handling and get used to it, regardless if its buck-board hard or sofa soft... or I'll modify it later.

I prefer to let others in the family do the test drive, that why they can not complain later...

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Many Genericans would be happy if they could buy/lease their appliance from a website and have it delivered to their door without the hassle of going to a dealer.

Whoever can do this on a wide-scale could become rich. I'd love to cut out the middle-man and order a vehicle online, only to see it a couple days later. A flat rate for each trim line, all with the same options could make things less expensive.

Edited by Pervez Musharrfap

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riviera- a lot of the dope teens and pups these days who didn't get driver's licenses right away or were too consumed with gadgets, who follow the online reviews like it was a smartphone, they might be the ones not test driving. they have no clue to evaluate anything in their life themselves.

People rolling leases point, too....very valid.

Well there is also the issue that most cars today handle at least "ok". They all stop, go, and turn just fine within the parameters of today's traffic and driving style. Even something as lame as a Toyota Corolla is capable of more handling performance than a typical driver is capable of. As long as the driver can out accelerate a garbage truck, most non-enthusiast buyers will be satisfied with the performance of a typical 4-cylinder sedan today.

This point really drives home with me personally because my daily driver is a 140 hp, 30 year old tank with a 3-speed auto. Clearly I have no sporting intentions in the car, but I also have no problems wheeling it around as my daily driver. I can merge, pass, and commute in this car, which by modern standards is grossly deficient in specs, just fine.

When performance is removed from the buying equation, there really is no reason for a test drive anymore.

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Many Genericans would be happy if they could buy/lease their appliance from a website and have it delivered to their door without the hassle of going to a dealer.

Whoever can do this on a wide-scale could become rich. I'd love to cut out the middle-man and order a vehicle online, only to see it a couple days later. A flat rate for each trim line, all with the same options could make things less expensive.

Yes many Americans would love to skip the dealer experience entirely, but strong franchise laws in each state prevents such a transition. Ideally, buying a car would be more like buying something from Amazon.com, but state legislators need their daily bribe and kickbacks.

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Many Genericans would be happy if they could buy/lease their appliance from a website and have it delivered to their door without the hassle of going to a dealer.

Whoever can do this on a wide-scale could become rich. I'd love to cut out the middle-man and order a vehicle online, only to see it a couple days later. A flat rate for each trim line, all with the same options could make things less expensive.

Yes many Americans would love to skip the dealer experience entirely, but strong franchise laws in each state prevents such a transition. Ideally, buying a car would be more like buying something from Amazon.com, but state legislators need their daily bribe and kickbacks.

Yeah, franchise laws are obsolete....might have made sense 100 years ago, but have no place today.

I still can't imagine not driving a car before buying...even just sitting in the car, to see if the ergonomics, visibility, etc are agreeable...and the checking out all the controls. But I guess for people buying a generic FWD appliance, it doesn't matter.

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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In Seattle, this has become very true as the average age of driving has risen to 18 and more people are just looking at an Auto as an appliance that gets them from point A to B and so they do not care about how it drives since they are not in it very long.

Yet the test drive is very important to people who drive more than 5-10 miles one way to work or have long commutes as the layout of the dash, comfort of the driving position and over all road handling becomes very important.

I suspect that this read the reviews and follow the trends will stay this way for as much as 20% of car buyers going forward.

I also will say that 50% of these people will end up trading in that auto in the first year and realize just how important the test drive is.

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I'm not sure I really see a lot of importance in a test drive anymore. For the most part, I consider most modern FWD cars to handle close enough alike that I seriously doubt I would need to consider it. Its going to plow through curves and accelerate as fast as the traction control and rubber are going to allow. My biggest concerns are driver comfort, overall size and flat storage area, an engine that can get in front of traffic, aggressive styling that appeals to me and finally, cost. All things I can judge, for the most part, without turning a key. My less cared for points are handling, safety, fuel economy and resale value... probably in that order. In the past, a test drive was definitely not needed, as I would rent cars I was interested in.

OTOH, RWD cars do handle uniquely enough I'd want to take a test drive... but preferably without the salesman. Of course, in the past, my RWD choices have been so limited, again, why bother? I would have gotten a G8 or a ? ? ? another G8. In general, I'm either going to like the handling and get used to it, regardless if its buck-board hard or sofa soft... or I'll modify it later.

I prefer to let others in the family do the test drive, that why they can not complain later...

I'm not sure I really see a lot of importance in a test drive anymore. For the most part, I consider most modern FWD cars to handle close enough alike that I seriously doubt I would need to consider it. Its going to plow through curves and accelerate as fast as the traction control and rubber are going to allow. My biggest concerns are driver comfort, overall size and flat storage area, an engine that can get in front of traffic, aggressive styling that appeals to me and finally, cost. All things I can judge, for the most part, without turning a key. My less cared for points are handling, safety, fuel economy and resale value... probably in that order. In the past, a test drive was definitely not needed, as I would rent cars I was interested in.

OTOH, RWD cars do handle uniquely enough I'd want to take a test drive... but preferably without the salesman. Of course, in the past, my RWD choices have been so limited, again, why bother? I would have gotten a G8 or a ? ? ? another G8. In general, I'm either going to like the handling and get used to it, regardless if its buck-board hard or sofa soft... or I'll modify it later.

I prefer to let others in the family do the test drive, that why they can not complain later...

I can appreciate the "without the salesman" thingie.

A few years ago, a salesman told one of my racing buddies to drive a car as hard as he wanted during a test drive, and I was along in the back seat.. After a few near 100 mph runs up and down on ramps, and a bonsai run down a curvy road, my friend bought the car.

Salesman was white with fear, and didn't quite stop shaking until the temprary tags were on the car and we were driving away....

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the allure of buying a car off amazon is nice. but i can tell through my exp. as sales,

the price and importance of the merchandise is such that you do need a person, or group of, to ensure that the transaction is handled properly, trades can be measured, service can be taken care of, and to present the merchandise at least at a minimum level so the buyer understands the implications of all that they get into.

Also, you cannot return a car without penalty, unlike returns at walmart.

I do think there would be a role for custom ordering a car direct from the manufacturer and having it delivered at a dealership (the dealership that bids for your business to sell that car at your price). Then the dealership is just about delivery.

Lots of things that happen at the dealer would be taken for granted by the customer pretty quick if d-ships were gone. It's the responsibility of the d-ship to have people on hand that do not repel buyers and actually enhance the service of buying a vehicle.

In general this culture of i buy everything on line is stupid to a point because you can't touch the merchandise before you buy it, and it takes too long to get. There is an even bigger now factor on cars than people believe. And no bricks and mortar car place wants to be the test track for places that sell them online only.

Edited by regfootball
  • Upvote 1

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...which is kind of the way thing seem to be going with things like Truecar, where you can get the average fair price per transaction.

Interesting take on things, reg....

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