Lexus, Infiniti and Saturn dealers do the best job satisfying service department customers, but overall, vehicle owners would rather have maintenance and repairs done at aftermarket service providers than at new-car dealerships.
That's according to the J.D. Power and Associates 1997 Service Usage and Retention Study, which measures customer satisfaction with auto repair and maintenance facilities.
The study, released last month, affirms what dealers and other industry watchers already knew: Dealers continue to lose service business to aftermarket shops.
While scoring above the industry average, several nameplates -including upscale Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Jaguar -were beaten by Shell, Mobil and Texaco service stations and independent garages. BMW and Sears were among those finishing below industry average.
Anthony Cohen, manager of service research at J.D. Power, said almost half of all 5-year-old vehicles are serviced somewhere other than a new-car dealership.
'More and more service customers are defecting from the dealership,' Cohen said. 'It's a tremendous profit stream. Every time you lose someone, you're losing money.'
The study is drawn from J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study database. The vehicle dependability study measures problems per 100 vehicles after five years of ownership.
Cohen said there were no significant differences in choice of service provider based on how complicated the service work is perceived to be.
The service study focuses on four areas of service satisfaction:
1. Service expertise - ability to do the job right.
2. Convenience - location, fast service, hours, price.
3. Capability - the perception that the shop has properly trained technicians and proper tools.
4. Treatment - courtesy and customer communication.
The study revealed that many consumers perceive dealership service departments as being more expensive and less convenient than other repair facilities.
For instance, among consumers who took their vehicles to aftermarket service facilities, 65 percent cited price as the reason, while only 26 percent of those who went to a dealer cited price as the reason.
Also, 42 percent of the consumers who had work done at somewhere other than a dealership rated the fairness of fees as excellent. Only 28 percent of the consumers who had work done at a dealership rated the fairness of fees as excellent.
While the industry average is ranked at 100 points, the dealer average of 93 is 16 points below the non-dealer average of 109.
DEALERS SEEN AS CAPABLE
One area where dealerships outperformed the pack was in service capability. Consumers gave dealers higher ratings in terms of availability of parts; availability of proper tools and equipment; and number of properly trained mechanics.
Cohen said 21,000 owners of 5-year-old vehicles participated in the survey. Several service providers, including Pep Boys, Penske Auto Centers and Wal-mart, were not included in the survey results because their sample sizes were too small.