News - General News
Exclusive: Honda back on top for customer service
Drawcard: Honda’s all-new HR-V has been a huge hit sales-wise and brought a surge of new owners back into the Japanese brand’s service departments, which are receiving the thumbs up from customers.
2015 JD Power study has Honda overtaking Mazda, Kia strong, while Holden tumbles
Click to see larger images
1 December 2015
HONDA has made an emphatic return to the top of the Australian motor industry
in terms of aftersales service among the leading brands in the marketplace,
heading the field in the JD Power 2015 Australia Customer Service Index (CSI)
Study released today.
The results, which provide a unique insight into just how well Australia’s
leading car companies are treating their customers at the service department,
have been eagerly anticipated at the highest levels of the industry as senior
management attempt to improve customer satisfaction while at the same time
increase sales volume – two crucial areas of business that are difficult to
It is a sweet victory for Honda, which fell below the industry average last
year but has returned to the number-one position – a spot it shared with Toyota
in the 2012 CSI study – at a time when it is implementing an aggressive sales
recovery strategy that will see it return to around 40,000 units for this
On the flipside, GM Holden has fallen back to the bottom end of the field to be
one of the worst performers among the high-volume mass-market brands after a
strong, albeit short-lived, improvement last year, while Volkswagen remains
near the back of the field despite concerted efforts to improve its CSI
ranking, which are reflected in this year’s results.
In another reversal of fortune, Hyundai has dropped back below the industry
average while Kia has shot up the field to fourth position behind Honda, Mazda
Jeep is also included in the results for the first time as its increasing sales
translate to more owners coming in for vehicle servicing, although its
last-place position on the table is cause for concern at Fiat Chrysler
Automobiles (FCA) Australia.
The CSI study measures Australian new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the
aftersales service process (using a 1000-point scale) by examining dealer
performance across five areas (in order of weighting): service quality, vehicle
pick-up, service advisor, service initiation and service facility.
This year’s study is based on responses from 4518 owners who purchased their
new vehicle between August 2010 and October 2015, and took their vehicle in for
servicing at an authorised dealership between August 2014 and October this
year. The study was fielded from late August to early October 2015.
As the industry average rose seven points to a new high-water mark of 797 – up
a further seven points from last year – Honda (816) made the biggest single
gain of any brand, its 29-point improvement displacing Mazda (813) at the top
of the industry, despite the top-selling full-import brand improving seven
points this year and remaining one of the benchmarks in the industry.
Toyota (807) also improved five points to remain in third position – its
increased emphasis in this area, including running customer service study tours
in Japan over the past 12 months, reflected here – while Kia (804) has moved
from ninth place and well below the industry average to fourth with a 27-point
The fast-growing Korean brand’s industry-leading seven-year/unlimited-kilometre
new-vehicle warranty across its entire range introduced in October last year –
supported by roadside assistance and fixed-price servicing over the entire
period – is clearly not only driving customers into showrooms, but a major
factor in keeping them satisfied as they take their vehicles back for servicing.
Subaru (800) maintained its position above the industry average this year, but
with a four-point decline is one of only three brands – the others being Holden
and Suzuki – to have fallen year-on-year.
Hyundai Motor Co Australia’s senior management team has been eagerly
anticipating this year’s CSI results after substantial investment in the
aftermarket area – subsidising the first five services and fixing the servicing
price for the life of the vehicle, for example – and given its strong showing
in last year’s study, in which it moved from ninth to fifth on the table with a
This year, Hyundai (795) has improved four points, but this was not enough to
keep it above both the industry average and its sister brand Kia.
Significantly, only two points separate Ford (792), Mitsubishi (792), Nissan
(792) and Volkswagen (791) in the CSI rating, with all brands improving their
score this year – and Mitsubishi in particular climbing 19 points – while
remaining below average for the mass-market brands.
Just as these four top-10 brands also draw close in sales terms, Volkswagen
climbed an impressive 26 points – from the bottom of the table – to sit ahead
of Suzuki (762) and Holden (781) on the JD Power table.
The current diesel emissions-rigging scandal engulfing Volkswagen Group
Australia could prove to be a setback for the German brand over the next 12
months, but its efforts in improving its customer satisfaction results – a key
plank of the company’s business strategy in recent years – are paying dividends.
Notably, Ford Australia’s major investment in its aftermarket program – which
earlier this year was extended to free loan cars during scheduled services –
has brought only modest improvements to its CSI study performance.
Senior management at GM Holden in Port Melbourne look to have the most cause
for concern, particularly as the company transitions to a national sales
company and closes its Australian manufacturing operations in 2017.
Whereas other brands have struggled in the aftermarket area due to substantial
sales growth, Holden’s sales have been contracting over the past five years and
its performance in the JD Power CSI study has placed it well below the industry
average over the same period – with the exception of last year’s 36-point
Was it a one-off? Or is this year’s 13-point downturn, the only double-digit
decline recorded, merely a temporary setback?
The company clearly needs to analyse its aftermarket operations and work on
stabilising its performance – at a high level – as it strives to retain its
customer base, and bring new buyers into the fold, with an impending fully
imported model range.
Holden’s new chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard believes the lion
brand can regain market leadership in Australia – in the long-term – but has
highlighted that delivering quality product and making improvements in
dealership facilities and customer service were a priority.
After a five-point rise last year, Suzuki has fallen seven points to remain
some distance from other leading brands, although it now finds itself ahead of
Jeep (757), which is ranked for the first time in the CSI study.
As with Peugeot, Jeep has been included in previous studies but not ranked due
to small or insufficient sample size (generally a minimum of 100 samples).
Jeep’s emergence reflects the brand’s expansion in Australia in recent years,
but shows the off-road brand as being well off the pace compared with other
mass-market brands. It is also a full 40 points behind the industry average.
A spokesperson for JD Power Asia-Pacific said the small sample size from
previous years meant it was unable to provide a robust comparison to comment on
the brand’s performance this year.
High-profile cases of disgruntled Jeep owners battling FCA Australia over
significant mechanical issues, which have brought federal politicians into the
fray calling for a national ‘lemon’ law to protect consumers, may have figured
in the brand’s low CSI ranking.
As GoAuto has reported, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
(ACCC) has also been investigating customer complaints made to Fiat Chrysler
Automobiles (FCA) Australia over vehicle faults, covering a two-year period
between the start of 2013 and the end of 2014.
As a result of the investigation, FCA Australia said it had made changes to its
processes and staffing in relation to handing customer enquiries and
The company said it had doubled the number of dealer support staff with the aim
of improving response times to technical and customer service issues, created a
dedicated Resolutions Team for resolving complex customer issues as well as
internal customer service scoring systems.
It has also doubled the size of its parts warehouse – as well as making it a
24-hour weekday operation – and its parts inventory.