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Mercedes tops for luxury brand service

Star performer: Mercedes-Benz has rated well ahead of its two major rivals, BMW and Audi, in JD Power’s first Australian CSI Study – Luxury Market.

Luxury market customer service study puts Mercedes ahead of BMW, Audi in Australia

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General News logo9 Dec 2014

By TERRY MARTIN

MERCEDES-BENZ has emerged as the leading luxury car brand in Australia for aftersales service, placing well ahead of its key rivals BMW and Audi in JD Power’s inaugural 2014 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study – Luxury Market.

As GoAuto reported exclusively last month, Mazda reaffirmed its status as the top mass-market brand in the influential CSI study, which has been running for five years and measures Australian new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the service experience at authorised dealerships.

For the first time, JD Power has this year separated luxury brands from the mainstream, lowering the threshold slightly for the minimum sample size – requiring at least 75 respondents as opposed to 100 for mass-market brands – but using the same methodology to measure customer satisfaction.

Across the five key areas of dealership performance – service quality, vehicle pick-up, service advisor, service initiation and service facility – Mercedes-Benz received top marks across all areas for a total of 833 on JD Power’s 1000-point scale.

This was well ahead of Audi on 791 and BMW on 774, with both placing below the luxury market average of 803 points.

In JD Power’s ‘Power Circle’ ratings, Mercedes collected five stars out of five for overall satisfaction and in each subcategory, however BMW and Audi managed only two stars each for overall satisfaction and were off the pace in individual areas.

BMW could do no better than two stars in each category, while Audi fared only slightly better, pushing up from two stars to three in the areas of service advisor and facility.

Land Rover, Lexus and Volvo were included in the study but not ranked due to small or insufficient sample size.

The results come as the three leading German luxury brands are enjoying record double-digit sales growth in Australia and are bringing first-time buyers into the fold as new and more affordable models enter the marketplace.

Mercedes is well placed to finish the year in the top 10 brands overall, having racked up almost 30,000 new registrations (4315 of which are commercial vehicles) to the end of November to be the clear luxury market leader.

BMW is next on almost 21,000 and Audi, which is experiencing the strongest growth rate at 21 per cent year to date, is just shy of 18,000 sales with December trading in progress.

Tellingly, JD Power’s luxury market study has found that younger owners (no older than 36) have overall satisfaction scores that are 27 index points lower than the study average, and rate their experience with the service initiation and service advisor lower than other factors.

JD Power Asia Pacific’s senior country manager – Australia, Loi Truong, emphasised that while older owners might be satisfied with their experience at the service centre, luxury car retailers need to cater for the growing number of younger customers entering the dealership.

“With younger people a growing proportion of luxury vehicle owners, it is critical that service centres provide them with the service attention they need,” Mr Truong said.

Among other key findings in the study, luxury car owners who are highly satisfied (with scores of 918 or higher) are almost four times as likely to recommend the same brand to family and friends compared with those who are highly dissatisfied (714 points or less).

Highly satisfied customers are also more than 15 times as likely to revisit their service dealer for post-warranty service.

JD Power’s luxury market study is based on evaluations from 383 vehicle owners who purchased their new vehicles between August 2009 and September 2014 and visited an authorised dealership service centre for maintenance or repair work between August 2013 and September 2014.

The overall 2014 CSI study is based on surveys of 4696 vehicle owners. The luxury market average is 13 points higher than the mass market, with JD Power saying luxury car dealerships scored particularly high marks from owners for their ease of driving in and out of the facility, convenience of parking and cleanliness.

In an interview with GoAuto earlier this year, BMW Group Australia’s general manager of aftersales and service Stephan Rausch said the company had recognised the need to improve the brand’s CSI study performance and was implementing a number of measures with the goal of becoming the top-ranked brand in Australia.

Audi also has designs on becoming the leading luxury brand in Australia – in both outright sales and customer service terms – with Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle telling GoAuto recently that it was working on sustainable sales growth generated by building brand awareness, investing in its dealer network and earning customer loyalty.

“I’d much rather have a customer perfectly looked after and sell one less car because we’ve taken the effort to make sure our loyalty is as strong as it is than chase another sale,” he said.

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