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 brand with the best rating in the J.D. Power Customer Service Index is super-luxury brand Porsche. It received a score of 899. The research divides cars into two segments: premium brands and mass market brands. The Porsche figure was the highest across both segments. Among premium brands, it was followed by Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, at 895, and Infiniti, the luxury brand of Nissan, at 887. The average score among premium brands was 870. The premium brand with the worst performance was Alfa Romeo at 797.
Among the mass market brands, BMW division Mini took first place with a score of 864, followed by Buick at 859 and Mitsubishi at 857. The average score among mass market cars was 843. The bottom score posted, 817, was for Ram, the pickup division of Stellantis (previously Fiat Chrysler).
Among the messages from the J.D. Power study is that service matters. Manufacturers cannot do well without the support of their dealer networks. If service is poor, the dealers suffer as well.