So far this year, the climate in car sales has been nowhere near as bleak as had been predicted at the tail end of last year. That’s not to say that there have not been widespread redundancies and costs have certainly had to be cut as dealers have risen to the challenge set by this credit crunch. The good news is the relationship between the franchised dealers and their car maker partners has strengthened in many ways as they hunker down to try and combat the recession together. With schemes like the government scrappage incentive having a generally positive effect and the surging price of used cars, dealers have not only managed to achieve year to date budgets, but in some cases have smashed them to bits. Interestingly as a result of closer working relationships and a better understanding by the manufacturers of the hardships faced by their franchised network, dealer satisfaction with their manufacturer partners has risen generally at a time when the opposite might have been expected. In the recently published Sewells’ Dealer Attitude Survey based on the opinions of over 600 franchised dealers it was revealed that dealers satisfaction with their partners is at its highest ever point. 15 of the 30 car manufacturers in this year’s survey recorded higher average dealer ratings in 2009. MINI dealers were the most satisfied with an overall rating of 82.2 out of 100. Lexus came in second with 78.7 points and BMW came third with 78.2 points. Of course it wasn’t all good news with 13 manufacturers seeing their overall dealer ratings fall this year. One of the main objectives of the survey is to identify the most crucial issues that have the biggest influence on dealers’ satisfaction with the manufacturer. The top issue was dealers’ ‘relationship with the manufacturer on sales and marketing’, which, not surprisingly has held on to top position for the past six years. The second and third most important issues were the rather nebulous ‘manufacturer’s understanding of important issues’ and their ability to ‘respond well to important issues’, whatever those “issues” may be.
The bottom line is that help in marketing and relaxation of targets in all financial standards have enabled dealers to concentrate on investing in the correct processes and more importantly on people. As dealer groups have recognised the need to micro-manage their businesses during these times, it has become clear that top line managers have gained a clearer picture of what staff have to deal with on a daily basis.
The laser focusing on key performance indicators and everyone singing from the same hymn sheet means customers are more satisfied and more cars are sold. This inevitably ends up being reflected in the increased dealer satisfaction with their brand partners.