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Toyota, GM Dominate Motorist Choice Awards

Hyundai Equus named Popular Luxury Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year.

by on Oct.15, 2015

The Toyota Avalon, one of six Motorist Choice winners for the Toyota and Lexus brands.

Arch-rivals Toyota and General Motors both have reasons to celebrate with the announcement of the annual Motorist Choice Awards. The two makers outranked the rest of the competition in terms of both customer satisfaction and low vehicle operating costs. Together, they landed nearly half of this year’s trophies.

The Motor Choice Awards are a joint project teaming consultancies AutoPacific, Inc., and IntelliChoice. First launched 10 years ago, the awards try to balance touchy-feely customer satisfaction rankings against hard vehicle cost of ownership data.

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Beyond the overall winners, there were 23 separate category choices split up among 13 separate brands and 10 manufacturers. Toyota was the overall winner, with more wins than any other manufacturer, split between its Toyota and Lexus brands. These included the Toyota Avalon HEV, named best Large Car, and the Lexus RX, named best Luxury Crossover.

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Cadillac, Buick Top New Power Customer Service Study

Motorists increasingly pleased with dealers as more makers add free service.

by on Apr.09, 2014

Cadillac topped the new Power study with products like the new-for-2014 ATS sedan.

It’s conventional wisdom consumers hate to visit a car dealer, especially for service or repairs – but a new study suggests that’s far from true these days, in large part due to complimentary and prepaid maintenance programs. And digital tablets are playing a role in improving customer satisfaction, it turns out.

Two General Motors brands have topped the list in this year’s J.D. Power and Associates’ latest Customer Service Index, or CSI, toppling such traditional leaders as Lexus and Toyota.  The study looks at how pleased owners of 1 to 5-year-old vehicles are with the service they’ve received at franchised dealerships.

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The availability of maintenance programs – whether free or prepaid – played a key factor in how makers fared in the 2014 Power CSI.  More than two-thirds of luxury car owners who responded to the survey, and nearly half of those driving a mass-market model, said they were covered by some sort of program that minimizes the cost of service and repairs.

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Mercedes ML is the “Ideal Vehicle,” Says New Study

Ford best maker at targeting customers – despite quality issues.

by on Aug.15, 2013

The Mercedes-Benz ML was the highest-scoring model in the new Ideal Vehicle study.

If any single vehicle nails what American motorists want most, it’s the Mercedes-Benz ML luxury crossover, or so says the latest in a series of annual studies by California-based AutoPacific, Inc., designed to identify the most ideal vehicles on the market.

The Ideal Vehicle study emphasizes what industry types like to call “things-gone-right,” rather than “things-gone-wrong.” Motorists, it suggests, are willing to suffer through the occasional defect if a vehicle delivers enough surprise-and-delight features such as great design, good interior space, unexpected performance or the latest in high-tech equipment.

According to that formula, the top premium brand is Porsche, with Chrysler’s Ram taking the lead among mainstream brands. Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. vehicles led in four individual product segments, more than any other brand, noted AutoPacific founder and lead analyst George Peterson.

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“That means they are doing the best at targeting customers’ needs,” Peterson said, despite the hits Ford has taken in recent quality-based studies. The Detroit maker has had some well-publicized problems with its Sync and MyFordTouch infotainment technologies, while small back seats in models like the Focus and Fusion sedans have also generated criticism.

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Lexus Tops New JD Power Customer Service Study

GMC surges into lead among mass market brands.

by on Mar.13, 2013

Lexus vehicles like the GS sedan once again dominated the Power measure of dealer service.

Sure, those car dealers are easy to poke fun at. But a new study suggests American motorists are more than happy, on the whole, with the service they’re delivering.

For the fifth year in a row, Lexus led the closely watched J.D. Power Customer Service Index, a measure of how well are meeting owners’ expectations for performance at their repair shops. Detroit-based GMC, meanwhile, jumped into the lead among mass-market brands, according to the market research firm.

The annual CSI found that customers are becoming increasingly satisfied by dealer service in general, especially with the service they get from factory-approved retailers as compared with independent facilities.

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“Manufacturers have made large investments in their retail programs, and dealers have made significant investments in key customer touch-points—people, improved processes and customer waiting areas—which are having a profoundly positive impact on their customers,” said Chris Sutton, the JDPA senior director in charge of the 2013 survey.

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Toyota Lands Lead in 2012 Motorist Choice Awards

Balancing high customer satisfaction, low ownership costs.

by on Oct.04, 2012

The Toyota Prius V - shown with CEO Akio Toyoda - took one of nine awards for the Japanese maker.

Quality, as most automakers are quick to admit, has become the price of entry in today’s new car business.  And the latest studies suggest that the gap between brands is smaller than ever.  So, what are the factors that really differentiate one brand from another these days?

That’s what the Motorist Choice Awards intend to define.  Created by California-based research firms IntelliChoice and AutoPacific Inc., the balloting is meant to balance high customer satisfaction and low cost of ownership.

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And by those measures, Toyota came out on top for 2012, taken nine of 30 possible awards with its various mainstream and luxury brands, with products including the Scion xD, Toyota Prius V and Lexus CT Hybrid.  European makers such as Mini and Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, scored well in both “Popular” and “Premium” categories.

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GM Betting Improved Quality, Customer Service Will Yield Big Payoff on Bottom Line

A 1% customer retention gain will yield $700 million.

by on Sep.19, 2012

Customer retention is GM's next big target, says quality and service chief Alicia Boler-Davis.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that add up.  Just ask General Motors which is making a major push to improve quality and customer service in the hopes of boosting customer retention.

Right now, company officials suggest, about 52% to 53% of GM buyers can be expected to trade in for another Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac or GMC product next time around.  Simply boosting that by 1% would have a significant impact on the bottom line, however.

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“A single-point improvement in sales retention is the equivalent of 25,000 (added sales) or $700 million in annual revenue,” explained Mary Barra, GM’s global product development chief, during a discussion of the maker’s plans to enhance quality and customer satisfaction.

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Lexus, Mini Top Brands for Customer Satisfaction with Dealer Service

Study finds dealers ranked above independent service shops.

by on Mar.14, 2012

Lexus topped the J.D. Power Customer Service chart for a fourth consecutive year.

For the fourth year in a row, Lexus has topped the charts as the brand delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction when it comes to dealer service.  Among mainstream brands, Mini led the list for the second consecutive year, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

The annual Customer Service Index, or CSI, found that overall satisfaction with dealer service has improved substantially over the last year, perhaps reflecting efforts by automakers to build brand loyalty.  Significantly, survey respondents revealed they are generally more pleased with the service they get at the dealer than with work done by independent repair shops.

“Steady improvements in vehicle quality, longer intervals between recommended service visits and a higher mix of maintenance service events have had a positive effect on overall dealer service satisfaction,” said Chris Sutton, senior director at J.D. Power and Associates.

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“Moreover,” Sutton added, “manufacturers and their dealers have instituted broad-based customer service improvement initiatives to increase satisfaction with both the purchase experience and after-sales service, with the understanding that a substandard service occasion can and will impact their ability to make a future vehicle sale or gain repeat service business.”

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Ford Tops the List in Latest Motorist Choice Awards

But imports dominate overall.

by on Sep.23, 2011

A Ford expedition rolls off the assembly line at the maker's suburban Detroit truck plant - which was recently converted to build small cars like the Focus.

There seem to be more and more automotive awards every year, and countless studies that try to rank the latest models according to some arcane quality algorithm.  The Motorist Choice Awards aim to pull things together and let owners report on what are not only the highest-quality cars but the ones they’d actually like to own.

And what they told the researchers from IntelliChoice and AutoPacific – who cooperated on this year’s study, the sixth for the Motorists Choice Awards – is that domestic automakers are making steady progress, though imports still dominate.

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Ford is, more than any of the Detroit makers, dominating the domestic revival, the number two U.S. manufacturer capturing four of the 15 popular lifestyle segment awards, more than any other brand.  Its Lincoln brand adds a fifth and sixth trophy, its Navigator capturing the lead among premium-brand “people movers,” while the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid was chosen the most Eco Friendly luxury model.

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VW, Ford Top New “Total Quality” Study

Balancing the good and the bad.

by on Jul.14, 2011

Despite some problems with vehicles like Jetta, VW nabbed the lead in the Total Quality Index.

What matters most: the little niggling problems, like an occasional rattle, or the things that surprise and delight a motorist, such as a heated steering wheel or a state-of-the-art navigation system?  How one answers that question could determine which of the many – and often conflicting — automotive quality studies matters most.

The latest, the so-called Total Quality Index, from California-based consultancy Strategic Vision, Inc., places Volkswagen at the top of the industry heap, followed by Ford Motor Co.  That’s in sharp contrast to the results of another recent survey, J.D. Power and Associates’ widely-quoted Initial Quality Study knocking Ford off its pedestal for racking up too many complaints for the complexity of its in-car infotainment technology.

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The gap between the new TQI and Powers’ IQS underscores the different methodologies at work.  “We decided to measure ‘quality’ from the ‘total’ perspective of the driver/owner, because this is how people actually judge ‘quality’ in terms of the decision to purchase or not,” explained Strategic Visions’ founder and Chairman Dr. Darrel Edwards.

By SVI logic, a problem with programming the new FordMyTouch system is more than offset by the fact that so many motorists are actually buying Ford products because they want the new technology.

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Mercedes-Benz Tops at Handling Shoppers, Finds New Study

But even the best makers have slipped coming out of recession.

by on Jul.11, 2011

Mercedes-Benz leads the industry when it comes to treating customers in the showroom, says a new study.

Mercedes-Benz is doing the best job treating potential buyers when they walk into the showroom, reports a new study, which is one reason the maker has continued building demand as the luxury market recovers.

But while it’s the third year in a row that the German marque led the annual Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index, its score actually slipped from last year, and the industry, on the whole, has seen a declining in the handling of “ups,” or customers who come to the showroom, cautions analyst Fran O’Hagan.

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“Industry-wide, treatment of car shoppers has declined almost across the board,” said O’Hagan, adding that “the easiest explanation is that the number of salespeople declined during the recession and has yet to bounce back, even though sales are picking up again.”

The Pied Piper Study relies on 3,524 “mystery shoppers,” anonymous researchers who visit tens of thousands of U.S. showrooms to see how they are treated.  They attempt to engage salespeople to see how they pitch products, explain their advantages and whether there’s an effort to close a deal.

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