Consumers have a lot to consider when they’re on the hunt for a new car these days.  But, according to Mintel research, it’s a hassle-free sales environment  that really gets shoppers’ motors running, as 27% of consumers who have bought a new vehicle in the past three years say they were influenced by the stress-free sales floor.

The test drive is by far the most powerful motivator of new vehicle purchase with 63% of respondents who got a new car in the last three years, though 37% were influenced by the dealer warranty. Meanwhile, 20% were swayed by the demeanor of the sales agent and 27% were wooed by the dealer trade-in amount.

“Our findings suggest that consumers are looking for a tangible experience when they are browsing for a new car,” says Mark Guarino, senior analyst at Mintel. “These big-ticket purchases are always going to be influenced by financial aspects, but consumers still value service and don’t want to be pressured by a pushy or overbearing salesperson.”

WHO – NOT WHAT

Many factors at the dealership can influence a vehicle purchase, but there are also factors outside the showroom, as consumers often seek a second opinion from a friend or family member. Fifty-eight percent of individuals who purchased a car in the last three years say their spouse or partner helped them make the decision. Another 9% say they consulted their parents while 27% say they made the decision on their own.

“Most often, car buyers don’t operate alone,” adds Mark Guarino. “Spouses or loved ones are not only a trusted source of information, there is also the practical aspect too: the spouse or partner may likely also be driving the vehicle—and in some cases helping pay—so they have a say in which one their significant other purchases.”

DOUGLE-DIGIT GAINS

Paul Taylor, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association, predicts that U.S. new car and light-truck sales are headed for double-digit percentage gains in 2011.  With the average age of cars and trucks on the road today at more than 10-years-old, Taylor says Americans will need to replace their aging vehicles.  Sales are expected to reach 12.9 million new cars and trucks sold in 2011, compared with 11.6 million light vehicles sold in 2010.

According to industry analysts, several factors will contribute to a boost in automotive sales in 2011, including an abundance of new models and choices; low interest rates; and higher gas prices, which increase consumer demand for small cars, hybrid vehicles and diesels.  In addition, continued stock market gains will boost luxury car sales, as the stock performance influences those who own significant amounts of stock outside of retirement programs, and who buy most of the new luxury vehicles.

[Source:  Research conducted by Mintel.  10 Feb. 2011.  Web.  23 Feb. 2011; Woodyard, Chris.  “Five factors will drive auto sales in 2011.”  USA Today/National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA).  7 Jan. 2011.  Web.  23 Feb. 2011.]