DETROIT -- Sergio Marchionne says Chrysler Group dealers need to raise customer satisfaction scores. At stake are big quarterly payments the factory makes to its retailers.
The CEO of Chrysler-Fiat said some salespeople weren't making necessary callbacks, following up on leads or treating customers "with the dignity they deserve."
On Jan. 1 Chrysler suspended the awards in its Dealer Standards program, which is designed to improve many aspects of dealer operations. But some dealers say altering behavior of salespeople, now the main responsibility of Chrysler Group dealers, is a challenging task, particularly when sales are rising.
Chrysler is publicly mum about what the ultimate program will look like. The company is "actively engaging its dealers" to negotiate changes to the program, which will remain suspended through at least March, a spokesman said.
Chrysler's Dealer Standards program, introduced in late 2009, awarded as much as $200,000 per quarter to large dealerships that met factory standards for customer service, facilities and management, dealers say.
The group's smallest dealerships could earn $4,500 per quarter.
The program also used mystery shoppers to gauge customer interaction with sales, service and parts employees.
After a stellar year in which Chrysler Group's U.S. sales rose 26 percent, Marchionne says the automaker's front line -- its dealers and their sales staffs -- cannot rest on accomplishments if Chrysler Group is to reach its long-term goals.
"We're not top league. We moved up," Marchionne told Automotive News during the Detroit auto show this month. "But that's not true of the customer interface. We're doing well, [dealers] are doing well, but they're not doing well with the customers."
Marchionne sees no room for complacency if the automaker is to achieve its goal this year of upping its 2011 global sales of 2.0 million by 400,000 vehicles.
"We can do all the Eminems you like, all the commercials, but at the end of the day, this only gets you so far," he said. "The interface is with the guy who sells you the car."