A secret document outlining what car dealers really think of the brands they represent has exposed Chrysler, the maker of Jeep and Dodge vehicles, as having the lowest satisfaction rating among dealers.
The confidential 2018 Dealer Satisfaction Survey document, obtained by The New Daily, ranked Mazda, Toyota and Kia respectively as the three most favoured manufacturers.
The document contained troubling news for the formerly beloved carmaker Holden, which slumped to the second-worst carmaker in terms of dealer satisfaction.
That satisfaction level dipped markedly from 2017 to 2018 as the General Motors-owned brand and its dealers grappled with the closure of the Adelaide manufacturing plant, the end of the local Commodore and a crash in sales.
Holden has also been paring back its dealer numbers in recent years, a move that has upset the network.
But Holden insists its dealer relationship is being serviced and repairs are under way.
“Holden is aware of the issue and we are working closely with our dealers, to deliver customers competitive vehicles and the best possible purchase and ownership experience, so we can grow our business and theirs,” it said in a statement to The New Daily.
The New Daily recently reported on the struggles the Jeep 4×4 brand has endured in Australia in recent years. Chrysler sales have dribbled to a standstill because it now offers just one model while Dodge has been pulled from the local market.
“The dealer survey is a way for us to receive open feedback from our dealer partners, which provides us an opportunity to identify and improve on our gaps,” a spokesman for Jeep parent company FCA Australia said.
“We use the feedback as a way for continuous improvement and have already had multiple meetings with our dealers and national dealer council to discuss process changes to be implemented in 2019, some of which are already in process.”
At the other end of the scale, market leaders Mazda and Toyota were one and two in the overall ratings and five other satisfaction ratings – product strategy, sales activities, marketing activities, support for parts and accessories and service support.
Automotive strategy consultant Matthew Wiesner said automotive brands paid close attention to the dealer satisfaction survey.
“It’s a toe in the water as to what the network is thinking and what their attitude is,” said Mr Wiesner, who previously managed the Jaguar, Land Rover and Skoda brands in Australia.
“You’ll find the outcomes will reflect current market conditions or profitability. So, you generally see the more consistently profitable brands migrating to the top.
“Another big part of this survey is based around how you are performing around product … at the end of the day profitability is based on consumer demand for what you have in the line-up and where and how it is positioned.”
Holden finished bottom or second last in four ratings, while Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge were in the bottom three in every rating segment of the report seen by The New Daily.
The survey was conducted only weeks after former Toyota Australia boss David Buttner took on the top job at Holden with improved dealer relations as one of his key objectives.
His arrival has yet to affect the sales performance of the former market leader and it has slumped to sixth on the sales charts in 2018.
Jeep has also continued to slide from a 2014 sales high in Australia, as price rises and quality issues have impacted. It has attempted to redress the issue with a longer warranty and capped price servicing.
According to notes contained in the report, 1603 dealer principals participated in the survey, with 182 Holden dealers supplying the biggest sample size.
Most of the principals operate multiple franchises, improving their ability to rate the performance of one brand against the other for the survey.
“There will be dealers with five, 10 or even 20 brands,” confirmed Mr Wiesner, the director of strategic consultants, the Raven Group.
“They will use their best and most profitable brands as the line in the sand and judge their other brands accordingly.”