GMC tops volume brands in dealer service satisfaction, Power says
Lexus leads luxury brands for 5th straight year
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Three General Motors brands, led by GMC, ranked among the top five volume makes for customer satisfaction with the dealership service department, based on an annual J.D. Power and Associates survey released today.
Overall, customer satisfaction with dealership service departments is rising as automakers and stores spend more to improve the customer service experience, according to J.D. Power's 2013 U.S. Customer Service Index.
GMC, with a score of 819 of a possible 1,000, topped the volume brands for the first time, replacing Mini (810), which came in second. Buick (809), Chevrolet (806) and Volkswagen (804) rounded out the top five.
Scion improved 24 points to 776, the largest gain among volume brands, while Kia -- which fell eight points to 774 -- was the only brand to post a decrease.
Nissan, Dodge, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and Volkswagen also showed major gains in the latest survey.
Three Chrysler Group brands -- Jeep, Ram and Dodge -- finished at the bottom.
GMC, Buick and Chevrolet also placed in the top five last year.
"GMC did extremely well on service quality. Also service initiation, which includes things like being able to get an appointment on the day I want," Chris Sutton, senior director at J.D. Power and Associates, said in an interview.
Many of GM's 4,500 Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC dealerships are undergoing major storefront and showroom enhancements with cash from the company's Essential Brand Elements program.
GM is spending more than $5 billion on the improvements over seven years, through 2016, according to an Automotive News estimate based on GM documents about the program.
Among luxury brand service departments, Lexus scored best for the fifth straight year with a satisfaction rating of 862. Lexus was followed by Cadillac (858), Jaguar (856), Acura (852) and Infiniti (848).
BMW (842) and Mercedes-Benz (832) scored below the 846 luxury brand average. Land Rover improved 29 points to 825, the largest gain among luxury brands. Infiniti, Lincoln, Volvo, BMW and Audi also showed major gains in the study.
All of the luxury brands improved from 2012, according to a J.D. Power spokesman.
"With Lexus, anything with a customer touch point they perform very well at. Things like customer waiting areas, the customers rate very highly," Sutton said.
"Also, the interaction with the service adviser [and] the level of attention paid to customers is really impressive and continues the long run they've had of delivering a great customer experience."
Thanks in part to improvements to waiting areas and an emphasis on service advisers, the overall customer satisfaction average at dealer service facilities rose to 797 on a 1,000-point scale -- up 10 points from last year and 29 points since 2011.
The study also found that overall satisfaction at dealer service centers was 44 points higher than independent service facilities, widening the gap by six points from 2012.
With the vehicle-quality gap narrowing, manufacturers see the customer service experience as "one of the frontiers" to differentiate themselves, Sutton said.
The study looks at satisfaction among vehicle owners who visit a service department for maintenance or repair work. The index is based on dealer service performance during the first three years of new-vehicle ownership, which normally represents the majority of the vehicle warranty period, the company said.
The 2013 study is based on responses from more than 91,000 owners and lessees of 2008 to 2012 model-year vehicles, J.D. Power says.
Satisfaction is gauged based on service quality, service initiation, the service adviser, service facility and vehicle pickup.
There are still ways, Sutton says, to push satisfaction scores higher.
"Manufacturers are continuing to emphasize things like availability of loaner cars. We see more mass market brands putting emphasis on that area," Sutton said.
"Certainly things like the customer waiting area and facility continues to get attention. Also, the nicer touches [such as] getting the vehicle back cleaner than when I brought it in and pretty thorough adviser reviews of the work done, including any inspections that were done."
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