BestMark News

Take a test drive as a mystery car shopper this summer

The automotive sales industry has experienced a renaissance of late, with mild first-quarter figures negated by momentum that began in late March and has carried over through May.

Brutal winter weather throughout much of the country - particularly the Northeast and Midwest - crippled foot traffic and generally hamstrung the economy throughout the first quarter of 2014. The automotive industry wasn't immune to the fallout, with fewer shoppers venturing to dealerships and sales figures slumping accordingly. But with the warmer weather came improved consumer sentiment and, as a recent report from The Wall Street Journal detailed, increased activity that provided a particular boon to the automotive sector.

After falling short of expectations in January and February, purchase rates rebounded steadily over the next two months before spiking in May, which saw industry sales jump more than 11 percent. That activity may be sustained throughout the summer. Even as many Americans are boxed out of the housing market because of tighter standards for mortgage credit approval, they still can - and will - buy cars.

Such surges breed opportunities for secret shoppers, who are frequently in demand for the purpose of test-drive assignments. The automotive sales industry is always competitive, and never is this more true than during the summer months. Seemingly every used car dealership and mom-and-pop lot is hosting a Fourth of July clearance or a Flag Day blowout sale, making customer service one of the deciding factors for where car shoppers take their business.

Researching without repercussions 
Assignments can vary, but given that there's no requirement that a mystery shopper actually purchase a car, there's often less pressure and more leeway to haggle. The perception can be that vehicle sales representatives are in the position of leverage, but for qualified buyers, that's far from the truth. Secret shoppers whose cover is maintained and script is sound can determine a lot about the tactics, terms, financing options and negotiation styles employed by a given business - mostly because they have nothing to lose in comparison to an actual car shopper. As a reward for the research, of course, shoppers can drive new cars around the block, so the sales interactions can even be dictated by which model seems like it'd be the most fun to take for a spin.

Those looking for more shopping opportunities, whether in the auto sales sector or elsewhere, should always ensure that the assignment is legitimate and backed by a professional organization, such as the MSPA.