Dealers are responding to Chrysler Corp.'s call for more customer-friendly dealer-ships.
Chrysler last year stripped the Five Star title from about 1,000 dealerships. To earn the title, dealers now must meet new, tougher requirements.
'We've told our dealers that the ways of doing business in the past are no longer effective or acceptable,' said James Holden, Chrysler's executive vice president for sales and marketing.
800 EARN THEIR STARS
About 800 dealers - 17 percent of the total - are Five Star dealers under the new requirements. Chrysler would like to have 1,500 certified by the end of the year.
'The winners will be those dealers who embrace change,' said Rob Robbins, owner of Crestwood Dodge in Garden City, Mich. 'Those dealers who don't get Five Star certification, they will be standing on the side of the road as the parade passes them by.'
In conjunction with Five Star, Chrysler will spend 'hundreds of millions of dollars' over the next few years on Customer Connect, an initiative to link dealers, customers and the company electronically, Holden said.
Customers and dealers will have quicker access to more information, such as pricing and service manuals, from within and outside the showroom.
Chrysler's dealer body learned March 7, 1997, that the automaker would overhaul the Five Star program.
Previously, Five Star status was a dealer award for achieving high customer and sales satisfaction scores.
THE GOAL: A MAJORITY
While Chrysler is encouraging all dealers to attain the new Five Star certification, there is no penalty for those who do not. The automaker hopes it can get the majority of its dealers certified over the next few years, but Chrysler acknowledges that it will fall short of 100 percent.
Five Star dealers must:
Ensure 70 percent of their sales staff meets minimum training requirements.
Provide new-employee orientation and training.
Provide parking and vehicle-display areas that are paved, well lit, convenient and clearly identified.
Make sure the sales and service staff contacts customers within a week of vehicle purchase or service.
Document customer comments or complaints, consistently report them to management and resolve them.
Follow procedures to ensure vehicles scheduled for delivery are clean and ready.