One reason people buy a new car and then buy the same brand again when it comes time to replace the original one is customer service, particularly at the dealer level. Cars companies can make vehicles that perform well and their customers may be initially pleased with their purchases, but poor service can undermine that and cause people to consider alternatives. Customer erosion makes it harder for a car company to drive profits. The manufacturer has to sell cars to new customers and replace former customers who do not return.
Car research firm J.D. Power tracks customer satisfaction yearly in its Customer Service Index, which has just been released for 2021. Brands are rated on a scale with a maximum score of 1,000, based on the following considerations (and how they are weighted): quality (29%), service facility (19%), service initiation (18%), service advisor (18%) and vehicle pick-up (16%). The data J.D. Power reports is pulled from 62,519 verified registered owners and lessees of 2018 to 2020 model-year vehicles.
Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power, commented about what it takes to be high on its list:
Completing work right the first time, as well as focusing on customers’ needs, play significant roles in satisfaction—and dealers are nailing these key performance indicators nearly 100% of the time.
The firm said one group of cars, electric cars, did worse than others by dealer service measure.
The research divides cars into two segments: premium brands and mass market brands. The average score among premium brands was 870, and Porsche tops the list at 899. The premium brand with the worst performance was Alfa Romeo at 797.
The average score among mass market cars was 843. The car brand with the lowest score across both categories, is Ram, the pickup division of Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis). It posted a grade of 817. Two other Fiat Chrysler brands are also at the very bottom of the mass market list. Chrysler is next to last at 818. Jeep is third worst at 820. The fifth-worst brand is another Fiat Chrysler division, Dodge, with a score of 824.
Ram is critical to Fiat Chrysler’s success in the United States. Full-sized pickups are the best-selling category among all American vehicles. Ford’s F-150 has been the top-selling vehicle in the country for over four decades. The Chevy Silverado is GM’s best-selling model, and Ram is the third vehicle in this category, a pillar of Fiat Chrysler’s revenue.
Fiat Chrysler’s service problem is deep. The Ram shows how far the parent company has to go.