JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – For a second consecutive year, BMW ranks highest in satisfying new-vehicle buyers with the purchase experience, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 South Africa Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study(SM) released today.

Now in its third year, the study is a comprehensive measurement of the new-vehicle sales and delivery process, and includes 32 attributes grouped in five factors (the importance of each factor is shown as a percentage): delivery process (27 percent), salesperson (23 percent), negotiated price (18 percent), paperwork/finance process (17 percent) and dealership facility (15 percent). Importance weights are developed based on consumer survey responses, thus reflecting what is most important to South Africa's new-vehicle buyers. SSI is reported as an index score based on a 1,000-point scale, with a higher score indicating a more satisfying purchase experience.

BMW leads the rankings with an overall SSI score of 874, followed by Chevrolet (871), Subaru (863), Volvo (860) and Mercedes-Benz (858), rounding out the top five brands. Included in the study for the first time, Lexus ranks sixth.

BMW continues to set the benchmark in three of the five factors: dealership facility, salesperson and delivery process. Chevrolet, which has performed well in South Africa SSI since the inception of the study in 2005, receives favourable ratings from customers across all factors. Additionally, Subaru performs particularly well in paperwork/finance process and price negotiations.

"Overall, premium and Japanese nameplates perform well and earn above-average scores in providing a satisfying purchase experience, which is a pattern that has been demonstrated in our research around the world," said Brian Walters, vice president of J.D. Power and Associates Europe, Middle East and Africa operations. "Giving new-vehicle buyers positive experiences during the early stages of vehicle ownership often creates enduring customer relationships. These customers are much more likely to return to the selling dealer for service and maintenance visits later in the ownership cycle. Ultimately, providing a superior sales experience lays a strong foundation for building brand and dealer loyalty among customers."

The study finds that non-premium nameplates registered the greatest improvements in 2007. In particular, the Daihatsu, Subaru, Nissan, Volkswagen and Citroen brands all improve by at least 20 SSI points since 2006. Increases in salesperson factor scores primarily drive these improvements.

"Higher scores in the sales staff factor, particularly among non-premium nameplates, show that these brands have focused their improvement efforts in areas that will most strongly impact satisfaction," said Walters. "A salesperson's performance can make or break a deal. While, in general, premium nameplates have an advantage in recruiting and retaining more highly skilled sales staff, all market players should focus their attention on improving customer interactions in order to deliver a satisfying ownership experience. This is especially true in a market like South Africa, where new-vehicle sales have slowed dramatically in recent months. Ultimately, brands that offer a satisfying ownership experience are in a better position to weather a down market."