Suffice it to say, car dealerships don’t exactly have the greatest reputation when it comes to integrity or consumer trust. They are often thought of as scalpers, in the business to screw the buyer out of as much money as possible by selling them features they don’t want or need. These are generalizations, of course, but in the grand scheme of professions, it’s hard to argue that car dealers are among the more respected.
That said, hanging around a dealership or waiting for service is not something many look forward to. Fortunately, it seems that the respective automakers are aware. Many have launched efforts to make the dealer a much more pleasant place to be and a more competent place to get service done.
“Maintenance packages — whether they’re complimentary or paid for by owners — create a long-term relationship between the customer and dealership, which, when coupled with satisfying service experiences during that period, can have a very positive impact on loyalty rates,” said Chris Sutton, the senior director of the U.S. Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. “Maintenance packages help capture a higher percentage of service visits, and since customers with these plans are predisposed to purchase such items as batteries, brakes and tires from the dealer even after their plan expires, dealers retain key revenue opportunities for service and repairs.”
J.D. Power last week released its 2014 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, which measures customer satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of one- to five-year-old vehicles. They measured both luxury brands and mass-market brands, the former of which we’ve listed below.
The results were based on responses from more than 90,000 owners and lessees of 2009 to 2013 model-year vehicles, and was fielded between October and December 2013. Each brand is scored out of a maximum possible 1,000 points.
Lincoln has gone through great lengths to foster a hospitable dealer and service center experience for its owners, as a part of its full brand revitalization. Part of the effort involves turning the dealer into a sort of social hub, with cheese tastings and other perks to lure younger generations of buyers into their showrooms. Lincoln scored an 865 out of 1,000 on J.D. Power’s survey, indicating that these measures appear to be working.
As the luxury arm of Nissan (NSANY.PK), Infiniti took the fourth spot on the list, also with a score of 865, tied with Lincoln (therefore preceding it solely due to an alphabetical advantage). Infiniti is a small player compared to luxury titans like Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes, but has set itself apart by offering outstanding service experiences and comfortable dealer settings, at least based on the score set by the respondents.
Lexus — the luxury division operated under Toyota — edged out Lincoln and Infiniti with a score of 867 for dealer services. Lexus has long had a reputation for quality service, and the latest polling results reflect that the brand hasn’t lost its edge. Lexus did, however, slip from the first place position, which it held not only in 2013, but in 2012 also.
Volkswagen (VLKAY.PK) has seen its share of struggles in the U.S. recently, though Audi has been a particularly bright spot for it — perhaps due to the outstanding dealer services that it’s known for, and netted the brand a dealer services score of 868 — edging out Lexus by just one point. With the competition for the leading position in luxury hotly contested between Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, it would be prudent of Audi to leverage their standings and use it to their advantage.
In first place, perhaps surprisingly, respondents of J.D. Powers’s survey put Cadillac comfortably in the lead, with a dealer service score of 872 out of 1,000 for satisfaction. The results indicate that in addition to overhauling its vehicles and image, Cadillac has been hard at work changing everything about the name, right through to its core business model to ensure consumer satisfaction. It appears to be working, too.