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Mazda still number one for aftersales service

Still the one: Mazda is particularly strong in the areas of service quality and facilities, and the slight improvement in its overall customer service index ranking was enough for it to maintain its status as the industry benchmark.

New JD Power CSI study shows Mazda holds sway with Holden, Hyundai up, VW below par

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General News logo25 Nov 2014

MAZDA has reaffirmed its status as the best provider of aftersales service among the leading automotive brands in Australia, taking top honours in the 2014 JD Power Customer Service Index (CSI) study released today.

The influential study, now in its fifth year and considered a major barometer of how well Australia’s leading car companies are treating their customers at the service department, has again turned up some startling results that are certain to prompt internal reviews at the highest level.

As well as Mazda securing its second successive number-one ranking – its third top placing overall, having proven to be the standout performer in the inaugural survey conducted in 2010 – Holden has made a remarkable improvement in the space of 12 months while Volkswagen, in stark contrast, remains at the bottom of the table.

Several other mass-market brands have slipped below the industry average, including Ford, Honda and Nissan, and while Kia has fallen this year, fellow South Korean brand Hyundai has improved significantly to now be considered a major threat to the dominant Japanese brands.

Among these, Subaru has overtaken Toyota to secure second place in the study, which 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 4313 owners who purchased their new vehicle between August 2009 and September 2014, and took their vehicle in for service at an authorised dealership between August 2013 and September this year. The study was fielded in August and September.

As the industry average rose seven points this year to 790 – a mark that is still below the average recorded in 2011 and 2012 – Mazda (806), which performs particularly well in service quality and facility areas, moved two points ahead to be just clear of Subaru (804), which improved three points while Toyota, relegated to third, failed to better last year’s mark of 802 points.

This time last year, GM Holden was languishing in second-last place on the table, on 758 points, and in the weeks that followed – which included the announcement that it was quitting car-making in Australia – newly installed chairman and managing director Gerry Dorizas revealed to GoAuto that improving customer and dealer relations, including its JD Power CSI performance, was a key plank in his quest to revitalise the brand and take it to market leadership before the decade is out.

Mr Dorizas has since unexpectedly resigned from his post, but his still-to-be-named successor will be expected to push on with the gains made this year – up to fourth position and 794 points on the JD Power scale – as the Australian subsidiary of the US auto giant transitions to a full-import brand with the closure of its manufacturing operations here by the end of 2017.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, which is continuing to improve its sales and market share in Australia, has managed to raise its index score on the CSI scale to 765 points (+22pts) but remains the lowest-ranked mass-market brand in the study.

Earlier this year, Volkswagen Group Australia managing director John White admitted to GoAuto that the company’s rapid sales growth in recent years, unaccompanied by comparable expansion in infrastructure across its dealer network, has had a significant impact on its customer satisfaction ranking.

He said the company still had a long way to go in addressing issues of customer satisfaction, particularly in terms of the service experience, which is clearly apparent in the latest survey results.

Having pushed past the industry average and moved from ninth on the table to fifth, Hyundai (791, +23pts) is the other major motor company that will now be closely scrutinised, and acutely aware of the need to deliver in its aftersales service, as it too manages substantial sales growth and pushes the brand into new territory with models such as the freshly launched Genesis sedan, which retails from $82,000 at the pinnacle of the new model range.

To its credit, Hyundai Motor Co Australia has introduced a strong aftersales package for Genesis, and has developed one of the most comprehensive servicing programs for its regular range that subsidises the first five services and fixes the servicing price for the life of the vehicle.

The lifetime cap follows similar moves from Mazda and Subaru this year, while Kia recently launched an industry-leading seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty across its entire range, supported by roadside assistance and capped-price servicing over the entire period.

Kia will be among a number of brands hoping to boost their CSI ranking, the Korean brand’s 777 points this year marking a 4pt improvement but not enough to prevent it from slipping a rung to ninth position.

Ford’s fall below the industry average came despite extending its fixed-price servicing plans early in the year, while Honda has plummeted from the top of the industry just two years ago – when it placed equal first with Toyota in the 2012 CSI study – to equal sixth with Ford on 787 points after a worrying 11pt drop in the space of 12 months.

Also among the top Japanese brands just a year ago, Nissan (783, -4pts) is now below average and in eighth position, while Mitsubishi (773, -6pts) finds itself in 10th position – just ahead of an improving Suzuki (769, +5pts).

JD Power Asia Pacific’s senior country manager – Australia, Loi Truong, said improved transparency of service and repair costs was becoming increasingly important as many car companies move to capped-price servicing.

“As most major brands in Australia now have adopted capped-price servicing, authorised service centres need to ensure communication to customers regarding costs, whether it is routine maintenance or additional repair costs, are clear and accurate as possible,” he said.

“Brands that can provide customers with a clear explanation of the work undertaken and deliver a consistently reliable service will benefit in the long run.”

Peugeot and Jeep, the latter breaking into the Australian top-10 monthly sales bracket for the first time in its history in September, were included in the study but not ranked due to small or insufficient sample size.

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