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The Detroit News






J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey

Lincoln dealers No. 1 in service

Ford's premium brand takes top honors for the second year in a row, edging Cadillac, Saturn.

By Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
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Robin Buckson / The Detroit News

Service adviser Dave Goddard, 52, of Allen Park helps a customer sign up for a loaner car at Demmer Lincoln-Mercury.

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Owners of Ford Motor Co.'s premium Lincoln brand were the most satisfied with their dealer service for the second year in a row -- the first time a domestic brand has won top honors in two consecutive years, according to marketing consultants J.D. Power and Associates.

Three of the four top-scoring brands were domestic, as General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac and Saturn were ranked second and third by customers who took in vehicles for maintenance or repairs during the first three years of ownership.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s premium Lexus brand was the highest-rated import marque. But the automaker's Toyota-brand dealer service was ranked below average, although its score improved slightly in J.D. Power's 2005 Customer Service Index study over last year.

Lincoln's CSI score rose to a record 915 points from 912 last year, with customers praising the fairness of prices charged for repairs and maintenance and the timeliness.

The top-rated domestic brands' strong showing is welcome news for Detroit's automakers. This week, GM and Ford reported losses for the second quarter on North American automotive operations.

According to J.D. Power, high satisfaction levels with dealer service helps manufacturers by bolstering their customers' loyalty.

"We have direct research that tells you that if you take care of the customer and do it quickly and efficiently and right the first time, they're loyal," said Al Giombetti, president of Ford's Lincoln Mercury division.

The big challenge for Detroit's automakers now is to recapture lost customers and draw new ones.

"The domestics are pretty strong on loyalty but relatively weak on conquest, and it's the combination of loyalty and conquest that determines your market share," said Chris Denove, a partner at J.D. Power.

Among the report's findings was that recalls provide an opportunity to boost customer satisfaction when dealers carry out repairs or parts replacements promptly.

"As negative as recalls are for manufacturers, they provide dealerships with opportunities to excel in service and make a positive impact on their customers," said Steve Witten, executive director of J.D. Power's auto retail research.

"When a vehicle is fixed quickly and correctly in one visit, customers tend to walk away with higher satisfaction. This typically occurs with recall work since the dealers are prepared to work on the specific problem," Witten said.

About half of the repair work cited in the study involved recalled vehicles, up from 39 percent in 2004, reflecting tighter government regulations on the reporting of safety defects. The average CSI score for 2005 -- 871 -- was up fractionally over last year. Isuzu was the lowest-scoring brand, with 810 points out of 1,000.

The study's findings were based on responses from 99,550 owners and lessees of 2002 to 2004 model-year vehicles.

A similar J.D. Power survey, of owners of four- and five-year-old vehicles, found high satisfaction levels with the service provided by Honda Motor Co.'s Acura, Cadillac, Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti and Lexus dealers. Cars of that age are typically past the manufacturer's warranty. By the time a car is five years old, only around half the owners still go to a dealer for service.

You can reach Christine Tierney at (313) 222-1463 or [email protected] detnews.com.
 

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I got my Merc from a Lincoln/Merc dealer. I have extremely pleased with the service there. My first oil change went flawless, even though it was just an oil change. What really sold me was what they did for my wife's car. Since the dealer is basically in walking distance of my house I took my wife's Focus there for state inspection. There was nothing that I believed was wrong with the car other then the throttle was a little sticky. I requested they check this while the car was there and the did. It took the one hour to complete the state inspection and diagnose the trouble. Called me immediately when the car was done and stated what was wrong and had order the part(warranty). Picked the car up and waited for the part to come in. After the part came in, they called and I scheduled the appointment. The car was going to dropped off @ 0730 and the shuttle would take my wife to work. After some sort of miscommunication, my wife had her car there at 0730, but the shuttle did not start until 0800. At the point the service department offered her a loaner car. My wife refused the rental car because she did have her parking pass and did not want to pay for parking. They still offered her the loaner car and a credit for the amount of parking towards future service. She ended declining and just had me take her to work. Once again her car was done in one hour (replaced the throttle body).

I am very impressed with this level of service from a dealer that gives this level of service. Even though I just bought a $20K car there, which is not much. I received this level of service on not only my car, but my wife's Focus for warranty work. I could only imagine what you get with a $40K Lincoln...
 

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Yje other day noticed a small bubble in the chrome door handle, so I called the service department. I was given the Service Manager's name and private number. When I called him, he immediately told me he would order the part, no need to even bring the car in for inspection him. I described the part and he ordered it immediately.
Outstanding...
 
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