Nearly a fifth of adults surveyed by SalesFuel said they would be buying a new vehicle in the next year.

It’s not incentives that are driving them to dealer lots. And they're not choosing one store over another because of charity involvement. 

According to the company’s annual AudienceSCAN survey and accompanying whitepaper, 27.3 percent plan to buy because they want the new model. This was the reason cited most often.

Meanwhile, 21 percent have issues with their current ride and 20 percent are buying because their family needs an additional car.

But only 8.3 percent said they would be buying due to deals or incentives that “are too good to pass up,” making it the least-cited reason.

Interestingly enough, safety is more top of mind: 13.7 percent said they were buying to get a safer ride.

Why they choose certain stores

The whitepaper, titled “Drive Automotive Marketing Messaging – 2016-17 Automotive Shopper Profile,” also delved into why consumers pick certain stores.

When asked the factors that are most important in choosing a dealership, 59 percent pointed to dealer reputation, which was the top driver.

“(But) don’t rely strictly on social media to reinforce reputation. It’s very rare that we see any social media clicks in a buyer’s purchase path. This doesn’t mean, however, it wasn’t an influence on the buyer’s decision,” Clarivoy chief executive officer Steve White said in a news release. Clarivoy is a marketing technology firm that also provided analysis in the whitepaper.

Next was selection of vehicles available (51.8 percent), willingness to deal/negotiate (43.1 percent), and the location being close to home or work (33.3 percent).

What wasn’t important?

The dealership supporting an important cause or charity, which the survey/whitepaper found to be the least important.  Just 5.3 percent cited this as a reason they chose a dealership.

Kindness, quality matter

And once the shopper is at the store, helpfulness and friendliness from the salesperson goes a long way. SalesFuel noted that 47.6 percent of respondents said they “make a point of shopping where salespeople are helpful and friendly.”

A third of respondents said they would shell out more for high-quality vehicles and 28.3 percent were willing to spend more for the latest technology. But only 10.4 percent said they would spend more for limited/special edition options.

“The automotive category is very sophisticated when it comes to using technology and data, but the results of this survey indicate room for improvement in both areas.  An increased focus on strengthening dealership reputation score and using psychographic data to better address the needs of the automotive buyer are more effective in motivating potential buyers to take action,” Stacey Sedbrook, SalesFuel vice president of strategy and business development, said in a news release.

What boosts loyalty?

The whitepaper indicates that just over a tenth of respondents are loyal to a specific store.

“If the model and price are right, 18.1 percent will buy from the same dealer they bought their last vehicles from. Now here’s the big ‘but’: 16.5 percent would buy a different brand to avoid a dealership where they’ve had a bad experience,” the company said in the whitepaper.

“SalesFuel advises dealership owners to take some time to check in on their sales teams. Help set up a “secret shopper” program with every one of a dealer’s salespeople to make sure they’re giving the warm and fuzzies in a genuine way – every single time,” it added. “Customer loyalty is bred by going the extra mile. Your marketing can emphasize how managers and sales staff are offering to find the vehicle a customer really wants, even when it’s not on their lot. What are buyers thinking while they’re inside a dealership?”