When people buy a new vehicle, they like to be treated well at the dealership. Some even expect it.
That's especially true for well-heeled buyers who pay big bucks for luxury cars. It's true in America and it's true in Europe.
We sometimes assume that consumers in Europe are treated better, but that's not necessarily so. A new study shows that luxury car buyers don't always get luxury service in Germany, which is quite different than the experience of consumers in the United States.
The study was commissioned by Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News. Undercover shoppers visited 54 luxury-brand dealerships to evaluate facilities, employees and procedures.
According to Automobilwoche, Mercedes-Benz dealerships outperformed those for Audi, BMW, Porsche and Lexus. Lexus, which is reorganizing its dealer network in Germany, lagged in all areas.
The study concluded that, on average, luxury buyers are treated only slightly better than customers who buy lower-end brands.
Contrast that with how luxury owners in the United States are treated.
While it's not a direct comparison (the German study focused on the car-buying experience, not the service department), the J.D. Power and Associates customer service index proves that when it comes to service in the United States, luxury brands rule.
Released July 20, the study ranked Lincoln No. 1 for the second consecutive year. Cadillac was No. 2, followed by Saturn and Lexus. Those brands work very hard to make sure their dealerships offer good service. The rest of the Top 10 finishers were: Infiniti, Jaguar Buick, Acura, Volvo and Mercury.
Though Lexus finished poorly in the Automobilwoche study of German luxury dealerships, the Japanese brand built its reputation in North America -- and grabbed business away from some European luxury brands -- by taking care of customers with quality products, good treatment during the purchase process and outstanding service.
Interestingly, Lexus' sister brand Toyota finished well down in the pack again this year, in 25th place out of 36.
The U.S. customer service index reinforces two old maxims: (Sometimes) you get what you pay for. And you do well what you to pay attention to.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at