The average age of one of the 250 million or so vehicles on U.S. roads and highways is nearly 12 years. On the one hand, the reliability of the U.S. fleet of light vehicles (cars, pickups and SUVs) is a great leap forward compared to the bad old days when cars seemed destined to last about half as long.
On the other hand, older vehicles need more TLC, and today’s cars and trucks require more than just a shade-tree mechanic to keep them running because so many of a vehicle’s systems are now controlled electronically rather than mechanically. The equipment and expertise needed to keep vehicles in good repair are more than most vehicle owners can manage on their own.
Industry and consumer analytics firm J.D. Power on Wednesday released the results of a new survey it conducted with SurveyMonkey of more than 12,000 vehicle owners on aftermarket auto repair and tire replacement services. The survey measure six attributes and weighted each differently for each type of service: fairness of charges, service quality, service advisor, service initiation and vehicle pick-up.
Chris Sutton, vice president, U.S. automotive retail practice at J.D. Power, commented, “Owners are holding onto their vehicles past when factory scheduled maintenance packages and warranties expire, meaning they’ll be responsible for footing the full repair bill when their vehicles need service. Depending on the work needed, this can be a pretty significant expense, so owners want to be assured their vehicle is in capable hands and that they’re getting what they pay for.”
For example, the second-most influential indicator of quality service is a vehicle walkaround, yet only 72% of repair shops and 75% of tire shops perform this simple task. Those that do see a score improvement of 49 points for repair shops and 47 points for tire shops.
Among other key findings were the value of fixing the vehicle right the first time, the importance of having had a satisfying prior experience with the shop and the strong relationship between good service and customer advocacy.
Another interesting finding was that vehicle owners visit dealer service shops much less as their vehicles age. A third of new vehicle owners who visited independent service shops also visited an aftermarket shop in the first year of ownership. Among aftermarket customers who own a vehicle 10 years old or older, just 8% visit dealer shops.
J.D. Power’s Sutton said, “Aftermarket service providers need to ensure a great experience so customers will want to return for future service, and might even recommend the facility to family members and friends. A lot of times, simple things like following up with a customer after a service experience can make the difference between a good and great experience.”
SurveyMonkey’s chief research officer Jon Cohen added, “Customer experience is the cornerstone when it comes to satisfaction with aftermarket service. The data show how providers who excel at basic customer touchpoints—from vehicle walkarounds to check-up calls—have a clear edge among consumers. The data are also clear that even as larger companies embrace customer centricity, they’re lagging behind many of the regional providers.”
Among repair shops, Les Schwab Tire Centers and Christian Brothers Automotive tied at the top with index scores of 823 (out of a possible 1,000), followed by Grease Monkey (782), Goodyear Tire & Auto Service (780) and Valvoline Instant Oil Change (754).
Among the tire shops, Les Schwab ranked first with a score of 824, followed by Discount Tire (793), Costco Wholesale (780), Goodyear Tire & Auto (771) and Sam’s Club (763).
The following J.D. Power chart ranks the shops included in the survey.