DONNA HARRIS

Dealers aren’t always to blame for customer defections

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News.

Automakers often have strict operating standards for their dealers because the retail experience can affect customers’ satisfaction with their brand.

Well, it’s a two-way street. A recent study from J.D. Power and Associates suggests the brand -- and vehicle quality associated with it -- has a pretty big impact on dealers’ service business.

In its 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study, J.D. Power concludes that vehicle dependability has a “notable effect” on whether customers return to the dealer for nonwarranty service. As the number of vehicle problems increase, owners are more likely to defect to other repair facilities.

Seventy-six percent of the owners who had no problems with their vehicles said they “definitely will” return to the dealer for service. But when owners experienced six or more problems, just 42 percent said they would be sure to return to the dealer for service.

Both dealers and manufacturers need to do more work on customer retention. Customer loyalty requires a team effort.

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