Of all the findings from a groundbreaking survey probing the dealership experiences of Black car buyers, the most disturbing exposed the “profiling” of people of colour.
According to the study, commissioned by Accelerate Auto, negative experiences — such as store staff assuming that a customer had poor credit — were cited by 76 per cent of Black consumers, compared with 64 per cent of white consumers and 82 per cent of other minorities.
As well, 22 per cent of Blacks said they were steered toward less expensive vehicles, compared with 12 per cent of white respondents.
Assuming a customer falls into a specific income bracket is bad for business, said Jerry Chinner, vice-president of sales and business development at taq Automotive Intelligence and founding member of Accelerate Auto.
Eighty per cent of customers consider their experiences with a company just as important as the product they’re buying, he noted during the March 28 Embracing Diversity online panel.
“Now, the interesting side was that 60 per cent of those people said they would drop the brand or their product that they were looking at buying if they experience a bad experience at the retail level,” Chinner said.
The bottom line: Dealers risk losing customers if they consciously or subconsciously employ biasbased business practices.
The study also suggested that Black Canadians feel they must earn respect once they walk into a dealership, said Raj Kuchibhatla, founder and managing director at the marketing firm RK Insights.
“Whereas when white Canadians walk into a dealership, that respect is automatically given,” Kuchibhatla said.
Respectful customer service, meanwhile, “has ripple effects downstream,” Chinner said. “The Black community is extremely high on the loyalty side and is very quick to start to give referrals about their experience that they had at a specific location — which drives, again, more loyalty and more business.”
Another key finding: More than 60 per cent of customers, regardless of race, noticed a dearth of diversity at Canada’s dealerships.
Accelerate Auto, dedicated to boosting Black representation in the auto industry, explored their constituents’ car-buying experience because the dealership is largely their point of entry into the sector.
The findings of the study, which surveyed about 1,100 consumers, should do more than hold up the proverbial mirror. It should prompt the industry to implement long-overdue change in the showroom.