Dealerships would estimate interest rates and customers would estimate their credit scores, and the ensuing vehicle finance outputs weren’t precise, said Tutton, whose group includes a Stellantis dealership in Georgia and another in Alabama.

“That created a lot of this ‘nontransparent’ transactions [sentiment] in the customer’s mind,” Tutton said.

He said most dealerships think of transparency as, “There’s the price, there’s the discount, here’s what you get.” But customers want to go further than that, he said.

According to the survey, 49 percent of customers defined transparency as whether a vehicle’s price and financing seemed fair. Thirty-five percent of dealers thought transparency indicated a vehicle priced appropriately for the market, and 34 percent of retailers said transparency meant fair financing options described clearly to the customer.

Forty-seven percent of customers said transparency referred to an accurate depiction of a vehicle and its features, and 35 percent of dealers equated transparency with accurate online information.

Yajnik told the Capital One webinar that transparency also meant acknowledging a customer had done research in advance. Customers who have done so don’t want to be treated like an uninformed walk-in, he said.

It can create an adversarial relationship to treat customers like that, Tutton said.

The 2023 study polled 2,210 consumers in October 2022 who either had bought vehicles in the previous six months or planned to do so within the next year. It also surveyed 400 owners, managers and business development center personnel at dealerships with at least $1 million in annual sales.

Yajnik called transparency the “single biggest thing” driving trust in the shopping process — and trust in a dealership the most important thing for a customer.

“It has risen right to the top,” he said at the webinar. “Trust has become a really important thing for customers.”

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