WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced plans last week to commission a research firm to conduct a qualitative survey of consumers who have purchased and financed an automobile from a dealership within the last six months.

The survey will begin with an initial sample of five in-person consumer interviews to test the questionnaire. After that, the FTC will conduct 40 additional in-person interviews and have the option of interviewing 40 more people if the organization believes it will be beneficial.

The FTC plans to include 20 prime credit customers and 20 subprime credit customers in the initial 40 interviews. The survey is expected to include both men and women and be racially diverse.

Each interview will last approximately 90 minutes and will focus on the consumer’s experience in shopping for and choosing an automobile, the price negotiation process, the trade-in valuation process, securing vehicle financing, and the F&I product sales process. The interviews will also cover post-purchase communications between the consumer and dealer, and the overall perception of the purchase.

As part of the survey, respondents will be required to have kept sales and financing documentation so the FTC can review the paperwork. Through this survey, the FTC intends to learn about current consumer protections issues that could exist.

If issues are identified, the agency said it could consider enforcement initiatives, rulemaking, or education. The FTC acknowledged that these results will not be germane to the entire U.S. population; however, it hopes that they will provide useful insights into how well a consumer understands the process of purchasing and financing a vehicle at a dealership.