When it comes to automotive service and repair, neither Ford Motor Co. nor Chrysler-parent Stellantis made the list of happiest customers in the 2022 J.D. Power U.S. Customer Service Index study released Wednesday.
But General Motors did — with three brands.
Cadillac ranked in the top tier of the luxury category, slightly better than Porsche.
Buick missed the top spot in the non-luxury category by one point. And GMC made the Top 5 list of mass market brands, too
First, let’s reveal the whole winning lineup and then explain how the trusted customer survey was calculated.
Luxury brands getting the best dealer ratings on a 1,000 point scale:
- Lexus (897)
- Cadillac (880)
- Porsche (879)
- Acura (871)
- BMW (866)
Non-luxury or mass market brands with the best dealer ratings:
- MINI ( 873)
- Buick (872)
- Mazda (856)
- Mitsubishi (854)
- GMC (853)
This outcome, based on a detailed point system, is found in the J.D. Power annual Customer Satisfaction Index study released Wednesday. It’s based on responses from 67,185 verified registered owners and lessees of 2019 to 2021 model-year vehicles in the U.S. from July through December 2021.
The scores reflect experience after the car has been purchased.
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Cadillac would include the popular XT5 SUV and highly profitable Escalade. Buick has seen success with the Enclave and Encore GX. While GMC has scored a following with its Sierra pickup and Acadia.
Outcomes are based on the combined total of service quality in these categories: whether a vehicle was fixed properly and time taken to fix (32%); service advisor (19%); vehicle pick-up (19%); service facility (15%); and service initiation or how easy was it to make an appointment (15%).
Automakers use J.D. Power results as a helpful tool to monitor industry customer experience measured by a reputable third-party source. Auto companies often tie bonuses for corporate executives to these outcomes, often called metrics.
In addition, customers frequently look to J.D. Power results as a reputable gauge when shopping.
This latest survey noted global industry-wide staffing and parts challenges that frustrated just about everyone as workers resumed commuting and vehicle use amid eased pandemic restrictions. Scheduling appointments continues to see hiccups. And new vehicle loaners are in limited supply.
However, the franchise dealers and after-market service departments that managed expectations and kept dialogue flowing earned the highest scores.
“It’s really important for dealer service departments to communicate with customers,” Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power, told the Free Press. “They may be waiting another week but rather than have the customer call every three or four days, it’s important for the dealer to be proactive.”
Letting customers know what is happening at each step along the way, including why various delays are happening, help improve customer satisfaction.
The study, now more than 40 years old, has been reworked this year to include pickup and delivery service, remote vehicle service and smartphone app payment options.
Overall, the redesigned study indicated consumers trust the dealers to “perform complex repairs” on their vehicles. But fewer consumers said they were happy with how issues were resolved after mistakes were made on repair or service.
Use of technology by service departments can be a perk, too.
“Automakers and dealers are increasingly doing a good job of incorporating technology into their service experience, like the ability to schedule online. Or if you’re waiting for your vehicle, to get a status on the vehicle while in service, a text update,” Sutton told the Free Press. “One of the areas that I think is resonating with customers is, when they’ve got a vehicle in service, the tech sends you a video showing what’s wrong. Customer reaction has been great.”
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Customers say they like to get text service appointment reminders and pay online.
‘Risk being left behind’
“Dealers who meet customers on their preferred communication channels are gaining an advantage,” Sutton said in a news release. “Service departments need to jump on the technology train now or risk being left behind.”
Service repair shops increase trust among consumers when workers provide a photo or video of repair work after an inspection or before work is approved, and customers are three times more likely to agree to recommended repair, the survey said.
Satisfaction spiked when customers had the option to have their vehicle picked up for service or serviced at the customer’s location rather than going to a dealership.
Meanwhile, J.D. Power research indicates that owners of battery electric vehicles are far less satisfied with their service experience than owners of gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles. Even though the electric vehicle owners tend to need service less frequently, dealers appear to lack familiarity with the products, the study showed.
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“It’s a disconnect now,” Sutton told the Free Press, saying it’s an industrywide challenge. “The customer knows a ton. They’re the early adopters. And retailers are not in the same place.”
This is “the next frontier for dealerships,” Sutton said in the news release. “The automotive industry has to get ready now and get the service experience right … pain points like range anxiety, unique maintenance requirements and support for related services such as availability of charging stations.”
GM has performed “very well” in this study for “a long time,” Sutton told the Free Press.
“If they don’t win, they’re in the top two or three,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stellantis products “had a pretty healthy improvement” overall, especially Jeep and Ram Trucks, Sutton said. And Ford moved up from 13th to 11th in the mass market segment.
Brands such as Ford, Toyota and Honda have massive customer service traffic because of sheer sales volume, and that can affect convenience, Sutton said. “That’s why it’s good to see Ford and Jeep improve.”
No Chevrolet this year
While this latest consumer survey is a big win for GM, the automaker has had its share of troubles with unhappy customers.
The company is still in the midst of a global recall of 2017-22 model year Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUVs, an SUV styling of the car. About 140,000 Bolts have defective batteries that have a potential to catch on fire. There have been 18 suspected fires, GM has confirmed 13.
GM has apologized to Bolt owners and it is, with its battery-maker LG Energy Solution, fixing the problem with replacement battery modules. But as GM continued to expand the recall to include more model years of the EV and continued to struggle to find a fix, many Bolt owners expressed dismay over GM’s customer service and frustration that the automaker delayed buying back their Bolts.
There is a class-action lawsuit filed against GM and LG over the defective batteries.
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Free Press staff writer Jamie L. LaReau contributed to this report. Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-618–1034 email@example.com.Follow her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Sign up for our autos newsletter.