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Nov. 26, 2017 — WELL this has thrown a spanner in the works.
It may come as a shock to anyone who has had their car serviced lately, but Australian motorists are complaining less about the cost of routine maintenance.
Three out of four drivers paid what they expected when getting their car serviced, while one in four still had bill shock.
However, that’s actually an improvement from three years ago, when fewer than half of all car service customers had price certainty.
The latest figures are from a survey by independent research firm JD Power of more than 4600 owners of near-new vehicles.
Mazda and Hyundai topped the charts with five-star ratings for customer satisfaction when getting their car serviced, while Kia was close behind with a four-star score.
Market leader Toyota and popular brands such as Holden, Ford, Subaru, Mitsubishi and Honda were rated “average”, earning three stars each.
Nissan, Volkswagen, Suzuki and Jeep were at the other end of the scale, bottoming out the Top 13 mainstream brands with two-star scores.
The study included cars less than five years old serviced at dealerships — rather than independent workshops — in the past 12 months.
It rated the customer’s experience at the service counter — and the process from start to finish — but does not measure vehicle reliability or breakdowns.
While the sample size is significantly smaller than the 170,000 customers surveyed in confidential studies paid for by the car industry each year, it is to date the only independent service satisfaction data available to the public.
“The sample of 4600 responses is still a good indicator of the market,” said Loi Truong, a senior executive at JD Power Australia. “We actually received around 7000 responses but eliminated those that didn’t meet our criteria.”
The prevalence of capped price servicing schemes across more car brands was the driving force behind the increase in customer satisfaction — but customers still need to read the fine print, he warned.
“Capped price servicing needs to be communicated clearly to the customer, because some buyers are not aware of what’s covered,” said Mr Truong. “Some brands have extra charges in the fine print or a separate table that can cost the customer more money.”
According to the survey, 70 per cent of customers knew the price of the service before they handed over the keys; just a few years ago fewer than half of customers surveyed had price certainty.
Mr Truong warned not all capped price service schemes are created equally and the number of visits to the dealer required each year varies from brand to brand.
Some brands require a visit to the dealer every six months while most have moved their intervals to nine or 12 months, depending on mileage.
Other key findings:
Mazda topped the survey for the fifth time in eight years;
90 per cent of customers had their vehicle fixed the first time;
70 per cent of customers paid what they expected for a car service (up from less than half three years ago);
25 per cent of customers still paid more than what they expected;
31 per cent of customers needed a loan car during the service.
Service experience: Top 13 brands compared
Mazda 835 out of 1000 — five stars
Hyundai 831 out of 1000 — five stars
Kia 829 out of 1000 — four stars
Mitsubishi 825 out of 1000 — three stars
Subaru 824 out of 1000 — three stars
Toyota 823 out of 1000 — three stars
Holden 823 out of 1000 — three stars
Ford 823 out of 1000 — three stars
Mass market average 822 out of 1000 — three stars
Honda 817 out of 1000 — three stars
Nissan 809 out of 1000 — two stars
Volkswagen 798 out of 1000 — two stars
Suzuki 797 out of 1000 — two stars
Jeep 781 out of 1000 — two stars
Source: JD Power Australia, Customer Service Index. Study is based on 4646 owners who purchased their vehicle between August 2012 and September 2017, and took their vehicle in for a service at a dealership between August 2016 and September 2017.