To the Editor:
The customer is the final judge of quality. Programs such as Five Star and Blue Oval, while well intentioned, never will achieve their goals as long they remain under the control of the manufacturers.
Five Star and Blue Oval are marketing initiatives. They lack permanence and are not designed to improve dealer quality continually. The flaws in those programs are beginning to surface, as noted in your April 15 story on "Fixing Five Star" ("Chrysler raises the bar/Auto group gets tough on dealership excellence standards").
There is only one truly recognized standard for quality: ISO 9000. More than 400,000 organizations throughout the world have been certified to the standard. The standard was revised recently and now is built around process management, customer satisfaction and continual improvement. It is user-friendly and suitable for use by dealers.
Every auto manufacturer is certified to GS 9000, a sector-specific version of ISO 9000. The automakers require that all suppliers be certified as well, yet they have never taken the final step to encourage or even require dealers to secure ISO 9000 certification.
I believe the National Automobile Dealers Association should take the lead to improve dealer quality by embracing the ISO 9000 standard, provide the training for dealers and ensure compliance through independent third-party audit. Dealers who receive ISO 9000 certification will be at the forefront of changing the customer's perception of the auto dealer and the buying process.