Audi dealers have been ranked number one by leasing companies responsible for the management of nearly one million vehicles.
The German marque and its dealers have invested a substantial amount of time and money on showroom facilities, staff training and customer service – and it’s paying dividends, according to one of the largest vehicle reliability surveys in the world conducted by AM sister title Fleet News.
Not only is Audi faring better than its rivals in retaining sales – private and fleet – during a tough 2009, it also ranked number one among FN50 contract hire and leasing companies for dealer standards.
Twenty-seven of the 34 companies which ranked the overall performance of the franchised dealer networks named Audi among their top five, just ahead of the BMW franchised dealer network, which took second place.
The 27 manage a total of 963,000 vehicles.
Audi and BMW were some way ahead of third placed Volkswagen which, itself, drew daylight with the Ford dealer network in fourth spot.
The biggest surprise is the absence of Lexus from the top 10 (it trailed in at 11).
Lexus regularly takes top spot in the JD Power survey of private car owners and rightly prides itself on outstanding dealer customer service.
However, just two leasing companies put it in their top five.
Citroen has faired poorly in JD Power surveys for a number of years, while the manufacturer has regularly been at loggerheads with its retail network.
But it achieved 10th in the survey implying a reversal of fortune in the eyes of the fleet sector.
Citroën has invested more time and put more focus on winning fleet business over the past 12 months and has adjusted its retail deals, such as the residuals-busting cashback offers, to improve its appeal to fleet operators.
It’s starting to pay off.
All three German premium brands – Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – feature in the top 10.
Audi and its parent Volkswagen are joined by sister marque Skoda.
Skoda has won over fleet operators and leasing companies alike; it recognises that there is still some work to be done to neutralise badge snobbery.
In total, 22 manufacturers received at least one top five rating by the FN50 leasing companies.
But there was a big gap between the top five and the rest of the pack.
And of those 22, six received just the one vote of confidence in their dealers’ reliability.
BVRLA chief executive John Lewis put the blame for poor dealer customer service on a lack of communication: “People complain that dealers never tell them what they have done and the work is often not done on time, but the quality is good. We have many complaints about a lack of communication.”
Top dealers rated by leasing companies