Motor Trade Insider Franchised Main Dealer Survey 2009

The 2009 Motor Trade Insider Main Dealer Survey is, we believe, the first independent test of its kind. Carried out over the last twelve months we are about to reveal the best performing manufacturer-franchised main dealers in the UK. From dealer location to staff professionalism, both the sales and service departments have been scrutinised by the people who count; the customer.

Dealers spend a large proportion of their time chewing over their CSI (Customer Service Indicator) scores by sending countless questionnaires to their customers on the overall dealer experience and whilst this is an important part of running a franchised operation, the ones that count (you and I) never get to read or even see the results. That’s about to change. Our survey opens the doors and reveals what their customers really think. By simply answering sixteen questions and giving a score from one to five, the performance levels that are so vital to dealer survival are finally out in the open.

It’s not an exhaustive survey and for various reasons does not include every manufacturer but we believe it gives an interesting snapshot of customer opinion. It’s a surprising set of results especially as the motor trade has been hit hard over the last few months. Have they done enough to retain loyal customers and bring new ones through the door?

With a maximum score of 80 points per dealer, hundreds of customers were asked to answer sixteen simple questions. An average score was taken then calculated to reveal the results.

Our questionnaire consisted of the following;

Lead Survey questionnaire:
Location of dealership
Ease of parking
Presentation of dealership both externally and internally
Overall professionalism of sales and aftersales staff
Aftersales technical knowledge

Service questionnaire:
Booking availability for service work
First time fix
Repeat work
Labour rate

New and Used car sales questionnaire:
Range of cars available in the showroom
Demonstrators available
Part exchange price
Used car stock availability
New car delivery time
New and used car hand over
Sales staff product knowledge

Survey Answers: 1 to 5 (Maximum of 80 points per visit)
1: No repeat business
2: Needs improvement
3: Recommendation
4: Repeat business
5: Loyal customer

The results were as follows;

PosManufacturer / DealershipScore out of 80
8 (Joint)54
8 (Joint)54
10 (Joint)52
10 (Joint)52
11 (Joint)51
11 (Joint)51
13 (Joint)49
13 (Joint) 49
13 (Joint) 49
17 (Joint)44
17 (Joint)44

It’s no surprise that Lexus took first place given their reputation for customer service, even with such a turbulent time in the motor trade. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Our independent survey revealed that although they scored between 3 and 5 points for dealer presentation, staff professionalism and technical knowledge, the actual average score was 3 points for sales and service overall, with some customers cancelling their new car order due to lengthy delivery times, to one month lead- times for service booking availability. These two areas seemed to be the most important for our surveyed customers. Loyalty and recommendation in the other categories was no surprise with an average score of 4 points across the board. With Lexus striving to be the best, they did manage to beat off the competition by a comfortable margin but, perhaps surprisingly, didn’t achieve the maximum score of 80 points available.

With parent company Volkswagen down in sixth place, it’s becoming more common to see Skoda scoring higher points in many automotive surveys. So why is this? Quite simply, Skoda targets the ‘more affordable’ market place instead of its more ‘premium side’ with VW and Audi. Even though Skoda cars are all re-bodied / re-badged VW’s its high scoring comes down to one thing: How customers are treated. Our survey revealed that customers rarely complained about their Skoda dealers although they were let down by repeat service work which we found was down to the level of staff capability in the workshops. As for the sales side of the business, nothing but high praises all round with an average of 4 points in every sales questionnaire. With a new Fabia and Yeti now on the market we may see Skoda steal first place for next year.
Moving further down, Mini, Toyota and Porsche all scored high marks in the sales questionnaire with good trade-in values to well presented showrooms. Like Lexus and Skoda, all three manufacturers were again let down by their service departments with labour rates and repeat work being high on the list of dissatisfaction. With one point splitting VW and SEAT, again like Skoda, it’s hard to fathom why VW’s “lower” brands can do so well when compared to their parent company. SEAT scored higher in the service questionnaire than VW but were let down by “shabby” (a phrase used more than once) showrooms and inconvenient locations whilst VW was the other way around. With new models coming through let’s hope next year will fare better for the German giant.

Our first joint placing of many, Land Rover and Mazda, brings us to eighth place on our list. Both manufacturers scored an average of 3 points for our sales questionnaire and faired slightly worse for aftersales with high labour rates and repeat work highlighting a big problem with most main dealers surveyed. Both Mazda and Land Rover customers were generally pleased with their dealers and would keep using their services despite our showings. Honda on the other hand scored an average of 3 points on the sales questionnaire with staff professionalism at the top of the list, and were the only manufacturer to score 4 points on most of our service questionnaire. Unfortunately Honda’s dealers were let down by their overall presentation with an average of one point across the board.

With Hyundai and Suzuki scoring an average of between 2 and 3 points in our questionnaires, both manufacturer main dealers have fared well in our survey, as have Chevrolet and Mitsubishi yet both of these could have stolen tenth place if it wasn’t for dealer presentation. Nissan, Jaguar, Subaru and Saab, the latter being in joint thirteenth place, were all let down, again, in our service questionnaires with an average of between 2 and 3 points. Their sales departments fared slightly better with an average of 3 points given by our surveyed customers. Alfa Romeo, Renault and surprisingly, Mercedes Benz, all seemed to suffer from a low score for repeat work with Mercedes coming out worse with an average of just 2 points. All three manufacturers were praised in our sales questionnaires with 3 to 4 points given yet the dealerships were again let down by their service departments.

The last five manufacturer-franchised dealers scored between 2 and 3 points both for our sales and service questionnaires with Volvo coming in last place with an average score of just 2 points in most categories. Our Volvo surveyed customers complained about over- the-top labour rates and poor sales and service departments. Most wouldn’t go back to their local dealer and wouldn’t recommend them as most have now gone elsewhere to service their cars.

Despite the high and lows, our survey has revealed what the customer really thinks. It has highlighted that service departments need to improve dramatically in order to retain customer loyalty and although the trade has been hit hard recently, it’s only been the last month or so where we’ve seen the dealers do something about the economic climate with sales and service incentives and promotions more common place.

With the government scrappage scheme helping matters at present, 2010 will see dealers back on their own again and that will be the telling time. At least the trade is responding but with every manufacturer main dealer so close in our average points scorings, more needs to be done and they have to move forward with new ideas and practices.

Many of our surveyed customers said that the motor trade still appeared to be many years behind other industries and that perception needs to change now. There are many new models coming from just about every manufacturer in the next twelve months, with some attracting a new customer base and only time will tell for our dealer survey next year whether the improvements are made, and if Lexus can hold onto the top spot.

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