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Surveying the horizon

By / 8 years ago / Comment / No Comments


Ever wondered which car dealers are happy to represent the brand displayed over their door and whose teams start every day with a spring in their step? Conversely have you ever considered which dealers are having a thoroughly miserable experience representing their chosen brand and are looking around for an alternative?

Clearly the feelings of both types of dealers are important to you as a fleet boss because you can find yourself in the position of entrusting them with the sourcing, servicing or repair of your vehicles; or all three.

Thanks to one of the automotive industry’s more revealing surveys, we know exactly how dealers feel. Twice a year the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), an independent trade body, polls the views of its members and produces a weighty document. This is where the brands of the moment get to shine, while there’s no hiding place for those who have done badly. This is warts and all stuff which can determine the strategic direction of many carmakers, especially those found wanting. After all, what can be more damning for a carmaker than the negative views of its dealers? Well, maybe the views of its customers.

The Summer 2013 NFDA survey took place when dealers were reaping the benefits of strong year-on-year increases in sales thanks to a plethora of manufacturer backed low and zero interest finance schemes which had boosted showroom footfall and sales. Over 1,000 dealers responded.

The big question is how they rank the value of the franchise they represent. The ratings are from one to 10 and the average score was 7.2. While there are no surprises at the top of chart, there are some surprising red faces at the bottom.

Land Rover, which can’t put a foot wrong at the moment, retained its position as the most valued franchise and achieved its highest ever score of 9.6. With a succession of brilliantly judged new models, Land Rover is the most desirable brand among dealers. BMW dealers are the second most content with the Mini brand scoring 9.0 and BMW scoring 8.9.

Other top performers, in order, include Audi, Kia, Suzuki, Volkswagen and Ford. While Mazda lifted itself out of the doldrums, having been starved of new product for a while, to become the most improved brand in the overall ratings.

The bottom rated brand was Alfa Romeo, a reflection of it becoming a bit player in the new car market with just a two model line-up; followed by Proton and Renault; the former a largely forgotten bit player and the latter clearly suffering the fallout from its 2011 product and dealer purge. Other under-performers included Mitsubishi, Seat and Subaru. But the biggest surprise here is Honda which, according to its dealers, is a below average brand to represent having scored just 5.4. Who could have predicted that?

So what do motorists think of the service they receive from dealers? JD Power/What Car? surveyed over 13,500 customers and found a greater degree of satisfaction among the quality and prestige brands.

Jaguar, a brand that curiously underperformed among dealers, had the most satisfied customers followed by Lexus, Honda, Mercedes, Land Rover and Toyota.

The worst performing brand was Chevrolet, followed by Alfa Romeo (it’s clearly not a great time to be an Alfa customer or dealer), Fiat and Peugeot. Surprisingly the seemingly infallible Audi was below average.

So what do these surveys tell us? As a fleet manager they provide a useful snapshot of who’s in the ascendancy and who’s in the sin bin and could prove to be useful when factored into your decision making processes.

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