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US:Car owners give Jaguar, Lincoln top spots in dealer satisfaction

Car owners give Jaguar, Lincoln top spots in dealer satisfaction

Josee Valcourt / The Detroit News

When customers at Jaguar of Novi are ready to sign the necessary documents to purchase their new vehicles, the paperwork is ready and waiting. It was prepared ahead of time.

Marty Krepsky, sales manager at the dealership, says attention to those little details is what keeps his customers happy.

On a larger scale, it's why Jaguar has remained in the No. 1 spot on the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Satisfaction Index for three years straight.

Sales satisfaction can determine whether a customer returns to a dealer for service or recommends a vehicle, said Tom Gauer of J.D. Power.

"What happens with the sales process pretty much sets the tone for the entire ownership experience," he said.

In the 2006 study, which was released Wednesday, General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac came in second, followed by Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln, third, then Porsche and Lexus, which fell from second place last year.

"Lexus is still one of the premium nameplates," Gauer said. "The biggest issue is not so much a matter of anything they did wrong. It's more a matter of what the other nameplates did right."

Overall the industry average improved 5 points to 847 on a 1,000-point scale.

"One of the things that we've seen on a continuous basis is that the entire industry is getting better," Gauer said.

Hummer saw major improvements, climbing from beneath industry average last year to the 11th spot -- wedged between Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

"We work very closely helping to put the right systems in place," GM spokeswoman Janine Fruehan said. The automaker offers comprehensive training for all its dealers and continuously trains them on new products and ways to streamline their dealership.

Honda tumbled, ranking less than the industry average along with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Toyota and Scion. Mitsubishi posted the lowest score.

Gauer said generally Asian nameplates do not perform as well on J.D. Power's study despite their strong sales performance and brand perception.

"It's more a matter of moving the metal" than being as tuned in to the overall shopping experience, he said.

Al Giombetti, president of marketing and sales for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury, attributed the nameplates' improvements to dealers' focus on cutting down time on paperwork and the finance process, in addition to Ford's push to simplify pricing.

"It's something that we've been concentrating on … it's all about taking care of your customer from the time they walk in to the time that they walk out," Giombetti said. "We're happy with the gains, we're still not satisfied."

The study is based on responses from 42,218 new-vehicle buyers who registered their vehicles in May. Respondents answered 32 questions related to the dealership facility, salesperson, paperwork/finance process, delivery process and vehicle price.

While auto dealerships are doing a better job of improving the purchasing experience for new car and truck buyers, poor customer treatment still upsets shoppers. They feel they have to wait too long between choosing a vehicle and starting the paperwork, with an average waiting time of 31 minutes.

The study also found that even though nearly one-third of vehicles are sold over the weekend, sales satisfaction consistently dropped among Saturday and Sunday buyers as waiting times increased an average of 22 minutes.

A satisfactory sales experience definitely impacts business, Gauer said.

Among customers delighted with their experience, 90 percent said they would return to that same dealership, the study found. But if shoppers were disappointed, only 46 percent said they were likely to return.

Many manufacturers and dealers are getting in tune with what customers want, the study indicates. "It's those that are at the bottom end that have more of a challenge," Gauer said.

Bottom line, addressing customer needs before customers know those needs is the key.

"It's those small things that make a difference," Gauer said.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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