What is the car dealer CSI?

You may not be familiar with CSI, but believe me car dealerships are intimately aware of this term.  CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) is a rating system for car dealerships.

You know that survey your receive in the mail after buying a car?  It's collected by the manufacturer and converted into a score to rate both your salesman and the dealership.  Manufacturers ask new car buyers about every aspect of the car buying process from the professionalism of the salesman, cleanliness of the dealership, to the selection of vehicles in stock.

So why do you care about CSI?

Because it’s important to car dealers and therefore it should be a tool in your negotiating tool kit.

This score can affect bonuses earned by both the dealership and individual salesmen.  It can also affect how many cars are released to a dealership by the manufacturer.  Salesman are so anxious for a positive score, you’ll often be coached before you leave the dealership to answer the survey with the highest possible ratings.  But take notice that it will not be brought up until after negotiations are over.  This is because it can become a negotiating chip in your favor.

How can you use CSI to your advantage?

As a smart buyer, CSI won’t come up in conversation while you are negotiating car price.  That’s because you won’t be talking with a salesman, but instead negotiating with multiple car dealers over email.  However, after you’ve settled on price, you’ll still need to negotiate your trade-in and financing at the dealership.  This is a great time to mention the survey.

You want to be subtle, but point out you are aware of the importance of the CSI score.   Before you hand over your keys, state that if you get a good value for trade-in, you'll be happy to complete any customer satisfaction surveys you receive with the highest possible marks.  Simply by acknowledging the CSI score, your salesman may be more flexible negotiating trade-in and financing.  What have you got to lose?