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Aftersales keep the customer satisfied

First class aftersales services are key to securing repeat custom – that’s the message to the industry from Toyota, whose Lexus subsidiary came top in the 2004 BBC Top Gear consumer satisfaction survey for the third consecutive year.

But Graham Smith, managing director of Toyota (GB), is critical of recent tabloid-style press reports that suggested the franchised sector offers a poor deal in servicing, and says they missed the real issue – recruitment of skilled technicians.

“Aftersales is absolutely critical, and is something we monitor very closely,” he says. “There’s a saying that the sales executives sell the first car to a customer but every other car is sold by the aftersales department. I agree with that totally.”

He says strategies such as Lexus’s policy of turning vehicle recalls into a more positive experience by returning the car valeted, with a full tank of fuel and a small gift are simple steps that make a big impression on customers.

In terms of dealer development, Smith plans to keep the UK network stable, and says any additions will be “one or two here and there, only as the market grows”.

Toyota also has 20 authorised repairers in the UK, generally in areas which would not sustain a full dealership. While the company has no plans to increase this number, Smith says he is open to talks with any businesses interested in a repair-only franchise.

Retail service is not the only area in which Toyota is enjoying success at present. Toyota Manufacturing UK assembly business, which has plants in Derbyshire and North Wales, has achieved a turnaround and made a £16.9m profit during the 03/04 financial year.

Toyota Motor Europe vice-president Dr Takis Athanasopoulos says: “We still have a long way to go though, so we are investing a further £50m to increase annual capacity to 285,000 units, simplify processes and improve efficiency.”

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