An in-depth analysis of branded car dealerships in Australia
MNY has taken the guesswork out of car buying by doing a data-driven investigation of the Australian dealership industry. We’ve done the hard part of the statistical analysis and brought you simple, straightforward graphs that reveal a surprisingly large amount of insight. Along the way, we’ve found quite a few fun reviews that we’re excited to share with you.
Our research started by looking at the last decade’s sales figures for the top ten most popular car manufacturers in Australia. We then compared those numbers with vehicle registration data and population data for each state and territory. Finally, we looked at 299,595 reviews from 1,374 car dealerships and dug deep into what their customers are saying about their car buying experiences.
Many of our findings were very unexpected. Did you know that MG dealerships have a huge amount of reviews despite being new to Australia, and that Subaru dealerships get overwhelmingly high ratings? You may be interested to know that Victorian dealerships consistently have some of the highest ratings, while Tasmanians write far fewer reviews per capita than any other state.
Nationwide Car Dealership Ratings
These graphs reveal the distribution of dealership ratings across the country. Australians are largely satisfied with their car dealerships, given that the vast majority achieve at least 4 stars and the typical dealership rating is 4.31 out of 5. However, there were still almost two hundred dealerships nationwide with pretty weak reviews.
Why the variability? There are a few things to keep in mind when considering online ratings for dealerships:
First of all, as the second chart reveals, the number of reviews can matter quite a bit. As dealerships get more and more reviews, their overall rating seems to typical out around near 4.5 stars. Poorly-rated businesses all had a relatively small amount of reviews.
This could mean that they haven’t been open for very long, or that they simply don’t do very much business. If their first few customers had uniformly bad experiences, word may spread quickly that this is a dealership to avoid.
Also, some dealerships might have special offers or small discounts that they promise in exchange for a perfect review. A customer may have had a bad experience but still given a 5 star rating in order to be eligible for the special offer.
Separately, you have to consider customer subjectivity and the fact that no two customers are alike. People could receive identical service and come away feeling completely different. Plus, you never know which part of their car buying experience a reviewer will choose to focus on.
For example, some reviewers complained about the car park layout or the way that the front desk answered the phone. One Toyota customer in Canberra wrote that while he was happy with a dealership’s customer service, he didn’t like an employee’s moustache!
Frequency of Dealership Reviews in Each State
This graph shows the number of reviews posted per thousand automobiles registered. Nationwide, Victoria leads the pack with its 23 reviews posted for each 1,000 registered automobiles, with Queensland and Western Australia not far behind. On the other end of the spectrum, Tasmania is last at just 7 reviews per 1,000 registered automobiles. These discrepancies may be attributed to the various demographic differences between these states.
For one thing, certain states may have more competitive car markets due to greater population and income levels. This would result in dealerships focusing more on the customer experience and providing maximum client satisfaction, which would prompt more reviews. In contrast, states with less competitive markets are less concerned about their online ratings, since reviews would not be as impactful for attracting customers.
Additionally, states with many urban centres have a more digitally connected demographic who are more likely to read and write online reviews. Meanwhile, areas with an older and more traditional population are probably going to rely on word-of-mouth or personal connections when choosing where to do business.
These explanations aren’t necessarily foolproof—for instance, the Northern Territory has a fairly high amount of reviews but is a more rural area with fewer dealerships competing for market share. Nevertheless, this graph makes it easy to see trends in terms of which parts of the country are more active with leaving online reviews.
Frequency of reviews by manufacturer
These bubbles show how many reviews are posted for each of the top ten manufacturers in Australia. MG dealerships are the most reviewed, with 78 reviews per 1000 vehicles registered, while Isuzu dealerships have the fewest reviews among this group at only 22 reviews per 1000 vehicles.
The wide range in review frequency could be attributed to differing customer demographics for these dealerships, where some customer bases are more predisposed to posting online ratings. Isuzu and Toyota are known as lower-cost brands and are seen as budget vehicles. As such, their customers are more focused on getting a car that will just get them from Point A to Point B, rather than worrying about any extra features or the details of their purchase experience.
In contrast, MG is positioned as a higher-end brand, so it would make sense for their customers to have more specific standards for what they expect from their dealership. Those customers would then be more likely to leave a review about their purchase.
Beyond different consumer demographics, you also have to think about different salesman practices across dealerships. Certain companies might be more strongly encouraging their clients to post about their experiences online, especially if the brand is customer service-oriented. Other companies might be prioritising low prices and worry less about online reviews.
Average Dealership Rating in Each State
The average dealership rating in each state can tell you a lot, but we wanted to dig deeper. Our goal was to look at the proportion of good versus bad ratings for each state’s dealerships. We labelled dealerships as having a good rating if they had more than 4.5 stars, and said that they had a bad rating if they had fewer than 3.5 stars. Anything in between counted as an adequate rating.
Most states are pretty close to one another in terms of the average rating, but Northern Territory dealerships clearly have markedly worse ratings overall. They have a decent proportion of dealerships with good ratings, but they also have a far greater proportion of dealerships with bad ratings. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the states with the largest proportion of good ratings, Tasmania, Victoria, and Queensland win on that score.
One reason for these discrepancies could be differing market conditions from state to state. For instance, supply chain issues could have caused several dealerships in one small area to have low stock, prompting more bad reviews.
Another cause could be that residents of one state might have generally higher expectations for auto services, while other states’ residents may be more easily pleased. Additionally, we have to consider that some states have more dealerships than others, meaning a few very low-rated businesses could skew certain results.
The main takeaway here is that some areas, like the ACT, seem to have dealership service that is adequate but rarely comes across as extremely good or extremely bad. In other states and territories, people’s experiences vary more widely, with many well-rated businesses and many poorly-rated businesses.
Average Rating of Each Manufacturer’s Dealerships
How come certain manufacturers’ dealerships are so far ahead in positive ratings? Some companies may be better at coaching their employees to deliver excellent service and encourage buyers to leave ratings. The result may be that their customers are more motivated to spend time writing a review. Other dealerships’ customers might be just as happy, but nobody explicitly prompted them to review their experience.
Finally, something to consider is that consumer buying habits don’t always line up with online ratings. Toyota is the top-purchased car manufacturer in Australia, but they have the fewest proportion of positive reviews. Toyota also has a reputation as a no-frills type of brand, which would explain why so many of their dealership ratings are satisfactory but nothing more.
Keywords in Reviews from High-Rated and Low-Rated Dealerships
This graph represents the most popular keywords used in online reviews of highly-rated and poorly-rated dealerships. Keywords from reviews of businesses with high ratings are expressed in yellow, while those from businesses with low ratings are shown in dark purple. The grey circles represent all reviews that contain this particular keyword.
These keywords break down into a few interesting groups. Some of them are focused on the purchasing process: could they get a test drive? Was delivery available? What was the dealership finance process like? Was the price in line with what they expected? These keywords were used by customers who focused more on the objective aspects of the review.
However, most reviewers aren’t just motivated by the facts of what happened: they’re motivated by how the experience made them feel. Professionalism is very visible as the number one most-mentioned keyword. Customers care a lot about the way that they are treated and talked to, regardless of whether or not they actually get what they came for.
Happiness and pleasure also have a huge presence in the body of reviews. Buying a car is a big event that often has people second-guessing themselves, and customers like feeling that they made the right choice and got what they wanted.
For instance, a Hyundai customer in Perth wrote that the employee behind the service counter looked miserable, which put a damper on the whole experience. Meanwhile, a customer in Victoria said that the dealership receptionist looked so depressed, they wondered if the company sold coffins instead of cars.
On the flip side, lots of customers described unique experiences that made their whole day. One Toyota dealership in New South Wales features a cockatoo that is a huge hit—some customers say they come in just to talk to him! Similarly, a Subaru dealership in Queensland gives complimentary jars of honey from their rooftop beehive. Positive interactions like these may have little effect on the car itself, but they can make a huge impact on the customer’s impression of the business.
Popular Keywords in Reviews from Each State
This graph shows which states have the most frequent usage of each of these popular keywords in their reviews. This visual depiction makes it useful to compare car shoppers’ experiences across states and territories. Certain states stand out sharply for particular keywords, which could be explained by differences in market conditions, economic factors, or consumer behaviour.
For instance, the word “professional” is most common in reviews from ACT and Tasmania, and it’s least common in reviews from Victoria. One cause for this could be that ACT and Tasmanian consumers have higher expectations for professional service.
By that same coin, dealerships in those two places might be more focused on customer service because of specific regional demands. Victorians may still care about professionalism, but not quite to the same extent.
Another noteworthy contrast is seen with the word “finance,” which is markedly more common in Western Australia than in other places like the Northern Territory or Tasmania.
This could arise from market factors in which Western Australians are more likely to take out car loans for their vehicle purchases. The market in that state could also be more fiercely competitive, meaning consumers would be more focused on finding the best financing offers.
Finally, customers’ emotions and feelings of satisfaction play a large role in their reviews. The word “happy” was used most often in reviews from Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia. Buyers in these areas may be more concentrated on how the purchase process felt and whether they believe they got a good deal, which could account for this observation.
Popular Keywords in Reviews for Each Manufacturer
This graph compares the popularity of certain keywords in each manufacturer’s dealership reviews. Certain manufacturers have substantially more usage of particular keywords. This reveals which particular aspect of the purchasing experience was most important to that company’s customers.
For example, “time” was seen in a huge number of Isuzu and MG reviews, but went almost unmentioned for all other companies. This would imply that the process timeline was unexpected or significant for these customers, while other companies’ turnaround times were unremarkable. Some reviews may be connected to a quick turnaround time while others may be discussing an unusually long amount of time to get everything in order.
Another notable keyword was “delivery,” which was used much more often by Subaru customers than Hyundai or Volkswagen customers. This suggests that Subaru’s delivery process stood out in customers’ minds and that it was a particular driving force for writing reviews. It may also be related to a specific promotion or discount offer for delivery from that particular manufacturer.
Furthermore, the words “happy” and “pleasure” had very different frequency rates across the different manufacturers. Subaru, MG, and Mitsubishi customers seemed more likely to use these words in their reviews, which would correlate with a high level of satisfaction with the overall purchase experience.
Any research study must acknowledge its limitations in order to help account for potential bias. While our goal was to use the largest sample of high-quality data possible, there are natural limiting factors. To begin, our data only covered the top 10 selling manufacturers in Australia, which account for 71% of 2022 sales. Review patterns and trends may differ in other, smaller manufacturers. Our data was sourced from Google Maps, which is a large and growing centre for consumer reviews, but there may be customers who favour other review sites. Furthermore, careful consideration for our interpretation of the keyword statistics. Some of the keywords identified by Google may not accurately represent the sentiment; for example, someone could have used the word “professional” but the complete phrase was “not professional at all.” Relatedly, some keywords were interpreted as positive since they were used in a review of a high-rated business, but that particular review could have been negative. Finally, some reviews were written by passers-by who did not actually visit the business.
Final Takeaways from MNY’s Research Study
Our goal for this research was to dig deep into dealership reviews for Australia’s top car manufacturers. The purpose was to locate notable patterns and trends among the online ratings and the customer feedback. We focused on frequently-mentioned keywords and the distribution of ratings out of five stars, and charted these results by state and by brand.
This study provided key insights into the personal vehicle market in Australia and identified several state-specific trends and significant differences across car manufacturers. By understanding these patterns, car manufacturers and dealerships can identify their areas of excellence and areas for improvement with customer satisfaction. Additionally, consumers can get comprehensive data about these top brands and find the best manufacturer for their needs.
MNY was proud to have its recent dealership research study published in the CarExpert. Car shoppers will benefit from staying informed about the current state of the marketplace. It is also useful to track differences across different states and different vehicle makes.
The article did raise questions about some of the conclusions in our report, such as Toyota being a completely budget-oriented brand and MG being a completely high-end company. Our report’s intention was to focus on the flagship vehicles and general perceptions of these companies among customer bases.
With the Toyota Corolla and Camry being two very famous and popular low-cost vehicles, we perceived Toyota as a budget brand, but it is true that they offer several high-end vehicles as well. Meanwhile, MG does indeed have low-cost vehicles account for a large chunk of their modern revenues, but their historic roots came from world-class sports cars.
We appreciate William Stopford and the CarExpert team for holding MNY’s research to the highest standard and for providing additional context and nuance to our analysis.
- Vehicles sales data by manufacturer were obtained from Federal Chamber Of Automotive Industries (https://www.fcai.com.au/news/index/view/news/787).
- Ten-year sales were obtained from CarExpert (https://www.carexpert.com.au/car-news/toyota-sales-in-australia-in-2022) and cross-checked against federal data when possible.
- Vehicle registration data by state were obtained from the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (https://www.bitre.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/BITRE-Motor-Vehicles-Australia-2022-FirstIssue.pdf)
- Dealership reviews and ratings were obtained from Google Maps (https://www.google.com/maps/).