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Mazda tops for customer service

Service with a smile: Mazda has topped the table of Australia’s leading car brands in the influential JD Power 2013 CSI study.

Australian CSI study sees Mazda rise but industry average, most major brands down

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Mazda logo3 Dec 2013

By TERRY MARTIN

MAZDA has returned to the top of the Australian car industry in terms of customer service but satisfaction levels among new-vehicle owners are continuing to fall for a number of major brands, according to the 2013 CSI study released today by global marketing information firm JD Power.

The biggest-selling full-line motor vehicle importer in Australia, Mazda was the standout performer in the inaugural survey conducted in 2010 but subsequently fell below the industry average 12 months later and, despite improving last year, remained behind Japanese rivals Toyota, Honda and Subaru.

These four brands are still ranked as the top four CSI performers in the influential study, which measures Australian new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the aftersales service process.

Mazda scored 804 out of a maximum 1000 points – three points up on last year – to claim the coveted top ranking, ahead of Toyota (802, down seven points), Subaru (801, down four points) and Honda on 798 – a fall of 11 points after sharing top honours with Toyota in 2012. In a worrying sign for many major brands and the broader sector, the industry average has fallen for the second consecutive year to a new low-water mark of 783 points (down from 791) – and six brands have suffered double-digit falls in the space of only 12 months as new-car owners clearly register their dissatisfaction with aspects of dealership service.

Of the 12 major brands featuring in the 2013 study (21 were covered, but not all were ranked due to insufficient sample size), Holden experienced the biggest fall, tumbling 21 points to 758 and second-last place on the table.

After modest growth in its CSI ranking over past three years, albeit well below the industry average on each occasion, Holden’s fall was the largest recorded since the study was introduced and will be a cause for concern among the senior ranks at the Australian car-maker’s Port Melbourne headquarters, who are also grappling with a 3.3 per cent sales decline to the end of October as the market heads toward another record 1.1-million-plus result.

Another brand in negative territory this year in terms of new-car sales, European prestige marque Volkswagen remains at the bottom of the table in the 2013 CSI study.

While the Australian subsidiary has battled with recalls and widespread publicity surrounding safety issues with some of its models this year, Volkswagen’s CSI ranking has been on a downward trajectory since 2010.

In direct response to its poor showing in previous CSI surveys, former Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler told GoAuto earlier this year that the company had taken steps to improve customer satisfaction across the board, establishing its own in-house customer care centre, hiring extra call centre staff, making personnel changes in the aftersales area and introducing measures such as capped-price servicing.

“We have to make sure we have focus – as do the dealers,” she said.

In the results published today, Volkswagen’s 2013 CSI ranking is down 14 points over last year to a new low of 743 – 40 points below the industry average.

Other brands below the average are Mitsubishi (down 12 points this year to 779), Kia (down 11 to 773), Hyundai (down 15 to 768) and Suzuki, which on 764 points is lineball with last year.

While the latest CSI data is cause for concern among all these brands, most of which are experiencing strong sales growth and bringing large numbers of new customers into their dealerships, Hyundai’s substantial decline is significant given the fast-growing Australian subsidiary vowed two years ago that it would prioritise customer satisfaction ahead of outright sales volume.

Former Hyundai Motor Co Australia CEO Edward Lee declared to us in September 2011 that even though the brand was moving in on Mazda as the nation’s top full-line importer, “CSI number one company is our goal”.

After ranking third-last on JD Power’s CSI table last year, Nissan has bucked the trend with a 20-point turnaround, moving above the Australian industry average for the first time to place fifth overall on 787 points.

This will come as welcome news at the Japanese brand, which has set ambitious targets in Australia but experienced setbacks this year including lower-than-anticipated sales, over-supply of some models and low levels of dealer satisfaction.

Ford has also climbed back ahead of the industry average this year, returning to the same level it was at three years ago (785 points).

JD Power Asia Pacific director of project management Gordon Shields told GoAuto that as well as seeing a drop in satisfaction for the second consecutive year in the industry, “we also see that customer expectations are increasing in the market and it is essential that brands deliver on key service standards”.

Dr Shields said implementation rates can be improved in areas such as ensuring vehicles are ready when promised, informing customers when the vehicle was ready after the service, the importance of washed and vacuumed vehicles in order to raise satisfaction, and the requirement to notify and contact customers both before and after the service.

“Other general trends we see is a greater decline in satisfaction amongst urbanites and households with children,” Dr Shields said.

“Moreover, the impact of capped-price servicing seems to be positive both on CSI measures but also on retention rates, but we also note the strong performance of both Mazda and Subaru in the study, brands not partaking in these types of promotions.” Dr Shields also highlighted the need for dealers to keep customers informed on the status of their vehicle and ensure their time is spent productively.

“Thus we believe dealers should spend more time enhancing the facilities offered, including Wi-Fi access, and also ensuring alternative transport is offered to customers,” he said.

This year’s study results were based on responses from 4421 owners across Australia who had their vehicle serviced between August 2012 and September 2013. The study was fielded in August and September this year.

Brands covered in the study but not shown due to their small sample size were Audi, BMW, Great Wall, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Volvo.

As in previous years, the CSI study measures owner satisfaction with the aftersales service process by examining authorised dealership performance across five factors.

In order of weighting, these are: service quality (25 per cent), vehicle pick-up (20 per cent), service advisor (20 per cent), service initiation (18 per cent) and service facility (17 per cent).

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