With its dealers seemingly unable to improve their below-average customer satisfaction ratings, Toyota Division introduced at its make meeting a dealer standards program that will go into pilot operation this month.
The 'Signature' program was designed by Toyota and 26 dealers. It will cover 14 areas of practices and processes that Toyota wishes to improve, from greetings to vehicle deliveries to service write-ups.
'The dealer should be motivated because it's the right thing to do and the right business thing to do,' said Don Esmond, Toyota Division general manager.
He said that there will be no financial strings or consequences attached to the program.
'There are no plans to take away margins and give them back (to our Signature dealers),' Esmond said. But Toyota may tie other nonfinancial incentives to the program.
The program will start in Boston Feb. 26 and reach all 11 regions by mid-April. Three to six dealerships in each region will test the program, said Jim Melton, Toyota corporate manager of retail development.
Toyota Division has finished far below the industry average ever since J.D. Power and Associates began tracking sales satisfaction.
The frequent complaint from consumers is an 'order taker' mentality at Toyota stores that lessens the importance of the customer. Perhaps not coincidentally, Toyota was the leader in sales per dealership last year.
As if Toyota isn't offering enough product lines, dealers asked for more - both in youth segments and in trucks.
'We're looking at what's next. We think we can expand the Tundra line. We've been told we have more trucks coming,' said dealer council chair Buzz Rodland, owner of Rodland Toyota-Daewoo in Everett, Wash.
With dealers calling for new entries, they should welcome a new Camry, which will arrive this fall. The current Camry has been the best-selling car in the United States for four straight years.