An interesting by-product of the recession: we’re happier with our car dealers than we used to be. That’s one conclusion from the most recent edition of J.D. Power and Associates’ annual Customer Service Index study, which looks at how car owners feel about their experience with dealerships’ service departments. Dealerships, having a hard time attracting new customers in the current economy, are working harder to hold onto the ones they have.
In a press release, J.D. Power explains, “Overall, satisfaction with dealer service has increased from last year. According to the CSI study, customers have been very happy with driving in and out of dealer facilities, parking convenience, the thoroughness of the work performed, the speed of the service, and the flexibility of the dealer to accommodate schedules and how well the service department explained the job.”
The survey showed good news for a pair of embattled companies. Autoblog notes, “Lexus and Hummer took top honors in their respective categories.” J.D. Power broke down its results by segment for the first time this year, ranking luxury and affordable brands separately. Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, took top honors among luxury brands, followed by Cadillac and Jaguar. Hummer placed first among affordable brands, in results published the same day General Motors announced plans to shutter the all-SUV brand. Saturn, another doomed GM brand, and Buick rounded out the top three in that category.
General Motors’ remaining divisions also performed well in the survey. “General Motors holds six of the top seven spots on the mass market category,” Autoblog notes.
The results reflect a new emphasis on retaining customers, J.D. Power says. “These days, the service department—not the new car showroom—is the most profitable operation at most automotive dealerships.” Improved customer satisfaction, however, could be a direct result of the fact that there aren’t many customers coming into dealerships in the first place – after all, it’s easier to please customers when few of them are making demands on your time.
Even in a slow market, however, some dealerships struggle to get service right. Dodge, Nissan, Jeep, Mazda and Suzuki all tied for the last spot in the rankings among mass market brands. Saab, Audi, Porsche, Infiniti and Volvo tied for last among luxury brands.