Best Dealerships in the Auto Industry

by : Glady Reign

J.D. Power's annual studies unravel the best dealerships in the automotive realm. The firm's annual Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) delved into the ability of a brand's dealerships to manage the sales process - from product presentation to negotiation and even reaching as far as financing and delivery.

Additionally, the annual Customer Service Index (CSI) measures the satisfaction of customers who have brought their car in to the service department during the first three years of ownership. The latest study revealed that the dealerships are not all luxury brands.

The most recent surveys came out November last year. The 2006 CSI is based on experiences with 2003-2005 model year vehicles. The 2006 SSI, consequently, is based on those who registered new vehicles in May 2006.

"This is something that the customer probably wouldn't want to see," said Brandon Vlaew, a technician at Rasmusse, while he was holding the dash top out at an awkward angle and wires hanging. "In all, it'll be about a two-hour job by the time everything's back together - and free of charge to the customer - all for the sake of a dash rattle. But they'll notice their rattle is gone." Additionally, the service did not end in the eradication of the rattle - the car is also clean and spot-detailed. These services are part of the ordinary convenience at the said Mini dealership.

"Even though that rattle is covered by the factory, we spend thousands of dollars a month covering things that aren't covered by warranty" just to keep the customer happy is what Bob Wells shares. Wells is the service manager at Rasmussen Mini.

In 2002, when BMW launched the Mini brand, it shared facilities with existing BMW dealerships. But Mini thrust for its own committed locations. Andrew Cutler, the spokesman of the company, said that customer satisfaction really started hitting its stride after the brand's dealership experience synchronized with the message that Mini was sending out in its advertising and its products.

"We really catered all aspects of the dealership experience to our target customers," added Cutler. "And they're a different kind of customer in that they're very hands-on and technically tuned-in and want to know about their car." He continued that the brand now uses a single sales person through the entire sales process, and requires exclusive Mini service writers and service bays even when some of the facilities are still shared with BMW dealerships.

Aside from Mini, GM's Saturn dealership is also marking a good record. For years, Saturn has been ranked alongside top luxury brands for satisfaction with the dealership experience. This reputation is boosted by personalized customer service, cutting-edge facilities and the no-haggle pricing policy. Other non-luxury top satisfaction dealerships include Buick and Mercury.

Mini and Saturn stand out because they set up their dealerships to meet or exceed customer expectations, said Alexander Edwards, the president of Strategic Vision's automotive division. Customer service at the dealership level has not always been the priority that it is today, he said, and it is much harder to enforce new standards on a dealership body that is already established.

"The dealer's main job is to move metal, not build brand equity," Edwards said. And that creates an inherent conflict because "the manufacturer is trying to build a lifetime relationship, but the dealership might just be looking to make its next sales target," he continued.

J.D. Power's Tom Gauer said that dealers as a whole are getting better at respecting customers' time, but that this is still a major point of contention that separates the best from the worst. "Quick lubes really caught on because the customer knows the time frame," Gauer noted.

A well-assisted customer inquiring about the could make a big difference in dealerships. Viral marketing could also do the magic...