GM brands fight back for scorecard marks

Chevrolet ranked as the No. 2 most improved brand.
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NEW ORLEANS -- General Motors improved its performance on industry scorecards last year as it pushed to distance itself from its bankruptcy and government bailout.

Chevrolet scored second to only Toyota in product quality among nonluxury brands, according to J.D. Power data. Buick scored second to Toyota in vehicle dependability, and also second in the industry on Power's measurement of customers' satisfaction with their purchase experience. GMC posted the industry's highest service satisfaction results, according to David Sargent, vice president of global automotive operations at Power.

Sargent highlighted GM's performance during the company's annual franchise assessment, a private, brand-by-brand deep-dive discussion presented during the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable.

The presentation to retailers and industry leaders singled GMC out as the most improved brand in terms of franchise performance, and Chevrolet as the No. 2 most improved brand.

Sargent says the GM brand successes are more notable because they were not tied to new products.

"GMC's product line is aging," Sargent says. "But that's often when product quality is best. And when quality is good, customers are happy, and they tend to be pleased with their service experience.

"What we've seen GM and some other brands do in the past year is really improve the fundamentals of their franchise -- without simply relying on new products to do all the work."

But Sargent noted that there is often a baffling disconnect between new product, dealership performance results and consumer recognition.

"Buick performed extremely well as measured by consumers -- but not by its dealers," he said. Power's data measured Buick's retail gross margins on new-vehicle sales as "poor" -- despite the heightened satisfaction of Buick buyers.

In another case, every model in Subaru's portfolio underperformed its competitive set in Power's measurement of vehicle appeal. But the retained value of its models ranked among the highest in the industry.

"There's a disconnect there," he says. "They lag in appeal, but the customers keep coming back."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.


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