Johannesburg - For the first time, market research company Ipsos South Africa has released the results of its annual product quality and customer experience surveys at the same time, giving us a detailed look at how the SA auto industry is performing in the eyes of the people who matter - its customers, who spend money on cars and vote with their feet when they don't like what they get.
The surveys have three components: they measure product quality with rankings based on the number of problems per 100 vehicles and customer satisfaction with the sales and service received at franchised dealers.
The three studies were conducted via phone interviews with nearly 36 000 vehicle owners over a 12-month period. The customer's purchasing experience was measured 10-35 days after delivery, the product quality interviews were done 90 days in and the service experience was based on an interview 10-35 days after a service or repair.
CARS: BEST OF THE BEST
Mercedes-Benz boasted the three highest-quality models - the E-Class, with only 10 problems reported per 100 vehicles, the C-Class coupe (14) and C-Class petrol (14) - with the Chevrolet Sonic hatch (17) and Mazda3 sedan (18) taking fourth and fifth spots.
The Merc C-Class diesel, Audi A1, BMW 3 Series, Toyota Auris, Toyota Avanza and Audi A4 completed the top ten in that order with PP100 numbers ranging from 18 to 21.
Mercedes Benz was also the top luxury brand overall with a PP100 score of 20, beating BMW (23) and Audi (27), and Merc’s East London plant was the best factory making passenger cars in SA with only 15 problems per 100 vehicles, ahead of BMW (19) and Toyota (28).
Toyota took a clean sweep of the light commercial vehicle category with best LCV brand overall (PP100 score of 39), best one-ton single cab brand overall (39), best one-ton double cab brand overall (39) and best local plant manufacturing light commercials (38).
Toyota Hilux derivatives also topped the light commercial vehicle rankings, led by the petrol single cab with 18 PP100 and the petrol double cab with 25, just ahead of the Ford Ranger petrol single cab on 27. The VW Amarok and Toyota Hilux diesel double cab models followed in fourth and fifth respectively.
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LOCAL IS LEKKER
Locally produced passenger cars averaged slightly fewer problems per 100 vehicles than imported ones, at 31 and 36 respectively, while locally-made LCVs (50) and imported LCVs (49) were practically level-pegging.
It’s worth noting that the industry average for the past three years has been about 40 problems per 100 vehicles, whereas in 2005 it was 140.
The most common problems were squeaks and rattles, while wind noise was another fairly frequent complaint. Electrical gremlins also caused a few problems, with only a few model segments citing “mechanical and performance” as a problem.
Both Audi and Volkswagen bettered the industry benchmark score of 92.6 percent for customer satisfaction with their passenger-car sales experience, as did Lexus, while Isuzu, Nissan and Volkswagen did the same in the light commercial category.
Audi also topped bettered the benchmark of 88.7 percent for customer satisfaction with after-sales service from franchised dealers, as did Lexus; Volkswagen, however, fell slightly below the benchmark for service satisfaction.
In the light commercial category, Chevrolet, Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen were all rated above the benchmark by their customers.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
Personal service is the key to making happy customers, be it in sales or after-sales service, according to the comments recorded by the Ipsos interviewers.
“They took into account exactly what I needed,” said one. “They went out of their way to accommodate my requests.”
Conversely, a customer who was unhappy with the treatment received from a dealer said: “None of my requests were met and I was constantly lied to by the salesman.”
The top sales attributes were: delivering a vehicle to the correct specification, offering a vehicle that suits the customer's budget and providing an exciting handover experience.
The main negatives in the sales experience included: not establishing a lasting connection between the customer and dealership, not providing a vehicle free of faults at the time of delivery and not contacting the customer after delivery to check if they were happy with the vehicle.
Here the positive markers were: promoting an environment of trust that the vehicle would be well serviced, having the service staff prepared for the work and having the vehicle ready at the promised time.
Negatives for service were similar to those for sales: no contact to check satisfaction after the service, and not establishing a lasting connection between customer and dealership.