Mitsubishi has unseated BMW as the top-ranked manufacturer in J.D. Power and Associates’ South African sales satisfaction index (SSI). Land Rover, Isuzu and Ford were among the most-improved marques in 2008, but Nissan fell by a disheartening 11 places.
By Mike Fourie – Editor
For the first time since the inception of the SSI in 2005, Mitsubishi ranks highest “among automotive brands in satisfying new-vehicle buyers with the purchase experience”, J.D. Power said in a statement on Thursday.
Mitsubishi (which wasn’t ranked in the 2007 SSI) finished on top with a score of 887 on a 1 000-point scale. Mitsubishi received particularly high ratings in four of five factors: dealership facility; salesperson; paperwork/finance process; and price negotiations.
BMW and Chevrolet, which were ranked in first and second positions last year, dropped by three places apiece to fourth and fifth respectively. Mercedes-Benz with a score of 871, “which performed particularly well in the delivery process factor”, moved up three places from 2007 to second, followed by a resurgent Land Rover, which vaulted up the rankings from a middling tenth position last year, to third place.
Following the top five in the list of manufacturers that finished above the industry average, were Toyota, Honda, Audi, Mazda, Opel, Isuzu (improving by six places compared with 2007), Opel, Isuzu, Kia and Ford (also six places higher than last year).
Although, Opel (tenth) and Audi (eighth) also moved up by four rankings apiece, and Mazda slipped from eighth to ninth, the biggest demotion was suffered by Nissan, which fell from eleventh and above the industry average, to nineteenth out of 22 in 2008’s SSI.
The list of manufacturers that finished below the industry average were (in descending order): Hyundai (although the Korean marque improved by six positions from 2007), Renault, Peugeot, Fiat (up by four places to 17th), VW, Nissan, Daihatsu, GWM and Tata.
“Overall SSI has increased to its highest level since the inception of the study in 2005, with ratings for dealership facility, in particular, demonstrating considerable improvement,” said Brian Walters, vice president of J.D. Power and Associates Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Even before customers enter into the purchase process, positive first impressions of the dealership that stem from location, appearance and comfort of the facility could lay the foundation for a satisfying experience throughout the entire sales process. Considering that purchasing a vehicle is one of the most important decisions a consumer makes, new-vehicle buyers have high expectations for even the ‘softer’ factors of the buying process.”
The study, based on a representative sample of more than 8,800 new-vehicle owners who purchased their vehicles between December 2007 and April 2008, found that sales satisfaction levels have a direct impact on customer advocacy.
Among customers who report having an “outstanding” purchase experience, 82 per cent said they would personally recommend their dealer to others. However, the recommendation rate declined to 56 per cent among less satisfied customers.
“A higher share of brand advocates can be the ‘currency’ of satisfaction improvement activities,” said Walters. “An increased customer advocacy rate reflects positively on a brand’s perception and keeps existing customers closer to the brand. In the long term, this increases the likelihood that these customers will become brand loyal.”
Now in its fourth year, the study is a comprehensive measurement of the new-vehicle sales and delivery process, and includes 32 attributes grouped in five factors (listed in order of importance): delivery process (27 per cent); salesperson (23 per cent); negotiated price (18 per cent); paperwork/finance process (17 per cent); and dealership facility (15 per cent).