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Curtis Hutchinson: Tell it like it is

What do dealers think of their car manufacturer partners and why should this matter to fleet managers? Curtis Hutchinson reports.

Curtis Hutchinson, editor of Motor Trader

Twice a year the National Franchised Dealers Association asks its members what they think about the brands they represent. The results are anonymous and, therefore, an opportunity for retailers to extol the virtues or tell a few home truths about the brand name above their doors.

The results can make for uncomfortable reading in car manufacturer board rooms around the country and further afield, as UK bosses find themselves heaped with praise (not to mention bonus payments) or asked to account for themselves.

Fleets don’t tend to get sight of the survey, as the opinions of dealers can be seen as perhaps too far removed from the views of fleet managers. However, you might find it useful to know exactly how the dealers supplying and maintaining your cars feel about the brands they represent; especially if they’re unhappy!

Rankings shift frequently, with dealers’ views on their brand partners often reflected by the rollout of new product and hence marketing support. However, the newly published NFDA Dealer Attitude Survey Summer 2018 differs from previous reports as the level of movement, up and down, appears higher than normal, reflecting the current ebb and flow of manufacturer–retailer fortunes. It appears a lot has happened since the winter survey was published in January.

This survey polled the views of 1,715 respondents and was expanded to 30 brands with the debut of Dacia. Dealers are asked a number of questions and asked to rate their car maker partners from one to 10.

The key question in the survey is: How would you rate your manufacturer overall?

Kia retained the top position, scoring an impressive 9.1, against an average of 5.7. It performed strongly across the board in terms of profitability, the setting of targets, the ability to do business with on a day-to-day basis and the setting of fair and reasonable showroom standards.

Paul Philpott, president and chief executive, commented: “I am immensely proud to see this response from our dealers and to take the number one spot in the NFDA survey for the second summer in a row. To maintain the top spot highlights that we pride ourselves in building sustainable, profitable partnerships with our dealers.

“We shall do all in our power to build on this and justify our dealers’ confidence. Avoiding short-term actions that undermine a dealer’s ability to make a realistic profit and seeking to work together in a way that delivers sustainable growth is clearly the right way forward,” he added.

So, it’s all about team work. Views no doubt echoed by second-placed Toyota (9.0), followed by Lexus (8.7), Mini (7.5) and Mazda (7.5). All of whom saw their ratings rise since the winter survey apart from Mazda, down slightly from 7.6 but climbing from number 7 to a joint 4th, alongside Mini.

Languishing at the bottom of the table, once again, was Alfa Romeo, scoring just 2.1 points, a slight improvement on the 1.4 it mustered in last time, but hardly cause for celebration. Rounding off the bottom five were Jeep (3.4), Citroën (3.4), Jaguar (3.6) and Fiat (3.6); not a happy showing for the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles network with Abarth scoring 4.7 in 23rd place.

Other notable under-achievers were Vauxhall (4.1) at number 25, hardly surprising for a brand bedding in after its acquisition by the PSA Group. More surprisingly though was Volvo (4.4) at 24, down eight places since the last survey, despite apparently enjoying a product-led revival after some years in the doldrums.

Of the brands on the rise, Mitsubishi (6.2) was the most improved, rising from 21st to 10th, with an impressive 98% response rate from its dealers. Honda (6.4) jumped from 16 to 9; Renault (5.9) from 23 to 12. Those sliding multiple places include Mercedes (6.5), embarrassingly toppled from the joint top place it previously shared with Kia to 8th; Ford (5.5) down from 10th to 18th; Audi (5.4) down from 8th to 20th; Land Rover (5.4) down from 10th to 20th; and Škoda (5.3) down from 16th to 22nd.

Sue Robinson, director of the NFDA, said: “Positively, there has been a general increment in satisfaction levels across the key questions of the survey. Additionally, although some of the top performers had lower scores than six months ago, we are pleased to see that the majority of the bottom networks have experienced solid improvements.”

One thing’s for sure, there will be a number of car brands moving swiftly to better understand their dealers ahead of the next survey – and that could be welcome news for fleets.

 

NFDA Dealer Attitude Survey Winter 2018

Top 5 Car Brands

1 Kia (9.1)

2 Toyota (9.0)

3 Lexus (8.7)

4= Mazda (7.5)

4= Mini (7.5)

 

Bottom 5 Car Brands

1 Alfa Romeo (2.1)

2= Jeep (3.4)

2= Citroën (3.4)

4= Jaguar (3.6)

4= Fiat (3.6)

Source: NFDA

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