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Lexus is customer hit again

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DETROIT — For the fifth consecutive year, Lexus dealers won the top rating in the J.D. Power and Associates customer service index.

The survey is based on responses from more than 56,000 new-vehicle owners and lessees, according to the marketing firm based in Agoura Hills, Calif.

"Lexus provides exceptional treatment in making it easy to obtain appointments, vehicles serviced are almost always fixed on the first visit and they provide amenities that delight and please their customers," said John Harbicht, senior manager of service satisfaction research at J.D. Power.

General Motors Corp.'s Saturn unit was second in the rankings for the second straight year.

Showing the most improvement in the survey was GM's Cadillac division in third place, moving up four spots.

One of the keys to Cadillac's improvement is the increased ratio of service related to maintenance, rather than repairs, according to J.D. Power. Cadillac customers also were pleased with the ease of getting their vehicles in for service, the survey said.

Improving customer relations at Cadillac dealers has been a "top priority," said spokesman Jeff Kuhlman.

"If you want to be considered tops in the premium market you've got to be doing these things," Kuhlman said.

He said the division was pleased that improvements in overall product quality have now translated into satisfaction at the dealer level.

Five of the top 10 rankings were GM divisions, including Saab.

"Combined with GM's improvements in quality and productivity, these improvements send a strong message that GM is headed in the right direction," said Michael Grimaldi, GM vice president of vehicle sales, service and parts.

Regardless of rank, the J.D. Power study found that keeping up with increased demand for service is posing a daunting challenge for all dealers.

"Record sales posted over the last two years plus dealer downsizing efforts in some franchises are making it difficult to get vehicles in for service," said Joe Ivers, executive director of quality and customer satisfaction research at J.D. Power.

The result, Ivers said, is that customers become disenchanted with dealers and defect to non-dealer service facilities.

Dealers who earn the highest customer satisfaction have made the vehicle drop-off process easiest, Ivers said.