DETROIT, Mich., May 7, 2024—Urban Science and The Harris Poll today released the 2024 Urban Science Dealership Transformation Index™ (DTI). Now in its third year, the DTI employs a science-driven methodology to capture and analyze the evolving views of the auto-buying public regarding sales and service in the traditional automotive dealership network in the U.S. The research conducted not only determines the DTI score, but also provides actionable insights to help automakers and dealers identify emerging trends, enhance buyer brand experiences and boost operational efficiency and profitability.

DTI score ranges: critical (<45), weak (45-54), average (55-64), strong (65-74), resilient (75+)

2024 DTI score
The 2024 Urban Science DTI score stands at 56, marking a one-point year-over-year (YOY) improvement, bringing it closer to the “strong” (65-74) range dealers and OEMs should strive for. This progression promotes consideration, trial and positive customer interactions, fostering short- and long-term service and sales loyalty, and in turn business relationships that promote healthy dealerships and retail networks.

The DTI is derived from an average of three key dimensions informed by U.S. auto-buyer survey responses across the categories: dealer relevance, trend resistance and actions. U.S. (franchised) auto dealers were also surveyed.

DTI dimension #1: dealer relevance
Dealer relevance gauges how auto buyers perceive the role of dealers, the expertise of salespeople and other aspects of the increasingly complex vehicle-buying journey. This year’s dealer relevance score rose to 62, a two-point increase from last year.

Perspectives on dealer relevance

  • 43% of auto buyers strongly agreed dealers play an essential role in the new-car-buying journey – a 4-percentage-point increase over 2023.
    • 74% of dealers strongly agree, marking a 31-percentage-point gap between auto-buyer and dealer perspectives.
  • 42% of auto buyers strongly agreed today’s dealers provide the resources, tools and tech to make buying a vehicle easy and convenient – an 8-percentage-point increase over 2023.
    • 70% of dealers strongly agree, marking a 28-percentage-point gap between auto-buyer and dealer perspectives.
  • 35% of auto buyers strongly agreed salespeople have the expertise necessary to help people navigate the complex vehicle-buying process – a 5-percentage-point increase over 2023.
    • 69% of dealers strongly agree, marking a 34-percentage-point gap between auto-buyer and dealer perspectives.

Dealership optimization
Auto buyers and dealers increasingly believe traditional dealerships are optimized for the future.

  • 38% of auto buyers strongly agree (11-percentage-point increase over 2023).
    • 49% of EV owners strongly agree.
    • 36% of ICE vehicle owners strongly agree.
  • 48% of dealers strongly agree (17-percentage-point increase over 2023).
    • 54% of dealership general managers and more-senior dealership leaders strongly agree.
    • 40% of dealership sales managers strongly agree.

Gen Z’s Influence on dealer relevance

  • Dealer relevance among Gen Z is strong, with a score of 67 – up seven points YOY.
    • This indicates a growing openness to dealer guidance as this cohort continues to gain purchasing power.
  • 51% of Gen Z auto buyers – up 19 percentage points YOY – strongly agreed today’s dealers provide the resources, tools and tech to make buying a vehicle easy and convenient.
  • Additionally, 46% of Gen Z auto buyers – up 14 percentage points YOY – believe dealers play an essential role in the car-buying journey, matching the perception of millennials, and outpacing baby boomers (44%) and Gen X (37%) in this regard.
  • Moreover, 47% of Gen Z auto buyers – up 14 percentage points YOY – strongly agree salespeople have the expertise necessary to help them navigate the complex vehicle-buying process compared to boomers (32%), millennials (40%) and Gen X (28%) who lag behind regarding strong agreement.

DTI dimension #2: trend resistance
Trend resistance measures how likely auto buyers are to resist new innovations in the automotive retail space, from new vehicle technologies to evolving car-shopping and -buying experiences offered to them. In 2024, trend resistance dropped one point YOY to 52, primarily influenced by growing preference for online car-buying and ride-sharing services. This shift signals a change in auto-buyer behavior toward embracing digital platforms and shared mobility options.

However, it’s important to note some level of trend resistance can be seen as positive for traditional dealerships, indicating auto buyers still value the experience and reliability offered by brick-and-mortar locations in certain aspects of the car-buying journey.

Perspectives on trend resistance

  • 33% of auto buyers strongly agreed they are open to purchasing a vehicle fully online (i.e., from selecting the vehicle they want to contracting/purchasing) – a 3-percentage-point increase over 2023.
    • Millennials had the strongest agreement with this statement (46%), followed by Gen Z (38%), Gen X (34%) and boomers (19%).
  • 47% of auto buyers agreed dealers are keeping up on understanding and advising the marketplace on electric vehicles (EVs).
    • Boomers had the strongest agreement with this statement (58%), followed by Gen X (48%), Gen Z (41%) and millennials (35%).
  • 20% of auto buyers strongly agreed owning a personal vehicle is not as important as it used to be with all the new ways to get around (e.g., EV scooters/bikes, ZipCar, Uber, etc.) – a significant increase of four percentage points YOY.
    • Gen Z had the strongest agreement with this statement (32%), followed by millennials (30%), Gen X (17%) and boomers (10%).

DTI dimension #3: actions
Actions describe what auto buyers are doing – or considering – regarding their vehicle purchases, from visiting a dealership to submitting online quotes. This year’s actions dimension score is 54, a one-point increase over 2023.

Perspectives on actions
When auto buyers were asked:

  • Where they considered purchasing their vehicles, 80% said manufacturer dealership(s); 35% said independent used dealership(s); and 32% said national used dealership(s), e.g., CarMax and Carvana – a 7-percentage-point increase over 2023.
  • If they submitted/planned to submit price quote(s) online, 48% said yes.
    • Generational split of “yes” responses:
      • Millennials: 65%
      • Gen Z: 59%
      • Gen X: 48%
      • Boomers: 32%
  • How many dealerships they visited/expected to visit, the mean was 1.9 stores.

Online purchase consideration
Across the board, auto buyers prefer traditional in-person purchasing over other options. The following are the buying formats respondents would consider:

  • In person at traditional dealership (91%)
  • Dealership website, fully online (67%)
  • OEM website, fully online (59%)
  • Non-traditional dealership (57%; 5-percentage-point increase over 2023)

EV owners (58%) are twice as likely as ICE vehicle owners (29%) to strongly agree they are open to purchasing a vehicle fully online.

Small incentives, significant impact
Auto buyers responded positively when asked about the impact of cash incentives on motivating them to visit a dealership for specific reasons. A $35 incentive offer prompted the following levels of motivation (somewhat motivated or extremely motivated):

  • Act on a recall their vehicle was subject to (84%)
  • Take a test drive (83%)
  • Bring their vehicle in for maintenance (81%)
  • Test drive an EV (71%)

About Urban Science
Urban Science is a leading automotive consultancy and technology firm that serves automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and dealers, and the advertising technology companies that support them, around the world. Headquartered in Detroit and operating in 20 office locations globally, Urban Science taps the power of its science – and its unrivaled data, solution offerings and industry expertise – to create clarity and business certainty for clients in even the most chaotic market conditions.

Visit for more information about how Urban Science helps automotive manufacturers and dealers gain a competitive edge by taking the guesswork out of critical business decisions. This in turn drives improved efficiency and profitability industrywide.

About The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll is one of the longest-running surveys in the U.S., tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963. It is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that strives to reveal the authentic values of modern society to inspire leaders to create a better tomorrow. We work with clients in three primary areas: building 21st Century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible.

Source: Urban Science Online Auto-Buyer and Dealer Studies, February 2024. These surveys were conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Urban Science among 3,005 U.S. adults aged 18+ who currently own or lease or plan to purchase or lease a new or used vehicle in the next 12 months and 250 U.S. OEM automotive dealers, whose titles were Sales Manager, General Manager, or Principal/VP/Owner.

For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Amy Bowering (