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Saturn Ranked #1 In Customer Satisfaction Survey • July 10, 2002

For the first time since 1986, a non-luxury nameplate Saturn ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study released today. The survey is based on responses from nearly 50,000 new vehicle owners and lessees during the first three years of vehicle ownership.

The industry average in this year's study rose 6 points to 843; Saturn scored 900.

Saturn dethroned Toyota's Lexus division for the top spot in the ranking. Lexus had finished first for each of the past five years, but dropped to third place in this survey behind Nissan's Infiniti division. The last non-luxury nameplate to finish first was Honda in 1986. Mercedes-Benz was not among the top 20.

Saturn's strength lies in its strong performance on routine maintenance, where it earns the highest score in the study, significantly above all other makes, luxury or non-luxury. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Saturn service is routine maintenance-related; the industry average is 55 percent.

"The overall strength of Saturn's customer satisfaction is a result of 'white glove' treatment, with easy service appointments, friendly interaction with service personnel and a strong emphasis on consideration for the timely treatment of customers," said John Harbicht, director of service/dealer satisfaction at J.D. Power and Associates. "Saturn owners are intensely loyal to their dealers."

The study indicates that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of spending on routine service and repair by Saturn owners is conducted at the dealership much higher than the non-luxury average of 64 percent. While less than one-half of non-luxury owners intend to return to their dealers for customer-paid work, 61 percent of Saturn owners intend to do so.

With marked improvement in service facility ratings compared to 2001, Infiniti follows Saturn in the ranking. Customers rate Infiniti service exceptionally well on both routine maintenance and repair. After securing the top position in CSI for the past five years (and nine of the previous 11 years), Lexus ranks third in 2002.

"Although Lexus is not the top-ranked brand this year, its service quality evaluations and the ability to fix vehicles right the first time continue to be hallmarks of Lexus service," said Harbicht. Lexus still scores high on fixing it the first time, but shares the dilemma with Mercedes of service operations being taxed because of increased sales volumes.

With steady product quality improvements throughout the automotive industry, customers are visiting dealer service departments with fewer repairs needed. The reported mix of maintenance and repair events for the industry is now at 55 percent for routine maintenance and 45 percent for repairs an 8 percentage-point shift since 1999 when the industry average was 47 percent maintenance and 53 percent repair.

Quality improvements also contribute to an industry trend of dealerships increasingly fixing vehicles right the first time. In 1990, only two-thirds of consumers said their repairs were resolved on the first visit. In 2002, that percentage has jumped to 85 percent. Much of this can be attributed to vehicle quality improvements, less difficult repairs and improved service processes designed by manufacturers.

Car manufacturers that earned an above average score in this year's study are listed below:

  • Saturn - 900
  • Infiniti - 897
  • Lexus - 894
  • Cadillac - 890
  • Volvo - 883
  • Buick - 882
  • Acura - 881
  • Saab - 875
  • BMW - 873
  • Lincoln - 868
  • Oldsmobile - 868
  • Jaguar - 867
  • Porsche - 864
  • Mercury - 862
  • Honda - 859
  • Chrysler - 856
  • Toyota - 849
  • Chevrolet - 846
  • Land Rover - 845
  • GMC - 844

Major brands falling at or below the industry average were Ford, Dodge, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Pontiac and Volkswagen. J.D. Power doesn't publicly disclose the scores or relative rankings for those finishing at or below the industry average.

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Source: J.D. Power & Associates, Associated Press

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