The top and bottom brands in the Winter 2016 NADA Dealer Attitude Survey are predictable. But some of the shifts in the middle are surprising.
For example, niche brand Volvo surged 13 rungs in the overall rankings, to No. 13 from No. 26 a year earlier. (It gained one rung because Scion fell off the list.) Conversely, Land Rover tumbled 12 spots to No. 26.
Infiniti jumped 8 spots to No. 23 from next-to-last in 2015, even as sibling brand Nissan held at No. 25. And BMW remained stuck at No. 22, immediately behind Mitsubishi.
The survey, conducted twice a year by the National Automobile Dealers Association, is a report card that focuses on three main areas: franchise value, company policies and the brand's personnel. Results are shared with automakers in a series of meetings of top-level executives from the automakers, dealers and NADA.
Lexus, Toyota and Subaru held the top three spots, unchanged from last year. No surprise there: Lexus and Toyota are highly profitable franchises known for their high sales per dealership, while Subaru's unit sales have set records for seven straight years. All three brands also are renowned for listening to and acting on dealer concerns.
At the opposite end, the bottom five included four niche players with weak sales and one suffering well-publicized recall problems: Fiat, Smart, Jaguar, Volkswagen and, dead last, Mini.
NADA historically has not released the survey results but this year released the top 10, both overall and in consideration of dealer input, without further details. Automotive News obtained the overall rankings for all brands, as well as copies of this year's executive summaries of NADA's meeting with executives and dealers of select brands, which included some specifics of those brand's survey results.
Volvo's jump in the rankings came as the brand's dealers celebrated the launch of the XC90 crossover and rising franchise values as reasons for the high scores.
"We have a very transparent organization," Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Car USA, told Automotive News. "We shared with our retailers our $11 billion investment on the product side. All these things make dealers positive about the future of Volvo, and that's reflected in the value of their franchise. They see the value will be higher."