Service Satisfaction among Japan’s Mini-Car Owners is a Major Challenge

Taku Kimoto

The mini-car segment in Japan continues to gain share and attract more attention, accounting for one-third of total industry sales. Traditional mini-car brands—mainly Daihatsu and Suzuki—are competing in a tight market with Japan’s six mass-market brands—Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru and Mitsubishi. Some, including Honda, are launching their own tiny models with engine sizes of 660 cc or less.*

The competition between mini-car brands and mass-market brands is presenting a severe challenge to satisfying customers with after-sales service—especially among those vehicle owners who have switched from domestic mass market brands to mini-car brands, according to our 2012 Japan Customer Service Index (CSI) Study.

This year, overall customer satisfaction with service performed at automotive dealer facilities averages just 617 index points (on a 1,000-point scale), which is down from 623 in 2011. Continue reading ›

Canadian Auto Insurance Policyholders are More Satisfied with Carriers

Lubo Li

Customer satisfaction with Canadian auto insurance companies improves this year in each of the three geographic regions evaluated, mainly due to fewer premium increases in addition to higher satisfaction with policy offerings, according to results in our 2012 Canadian Auto Insurance Study. This year’s study is based on responses from 11,620 auto insurance policyholders. Some findings from each of the regions are highlighted below:

Quebec Region

Satisfaction in the Quebec region increases by 17 points (based on a 1,000-point scale), which is the largest increase in score among all three regions from 2011. Satisfaction increases significantly in two of the five factors* that make up the overall customer satisfaction index: billing and payment (+21 points) and price (+19 points). In addition, only 11% of customers in the Quebec region say they experienced an insurer-initiated rate hike—the lowest percentage in all three regions.

La Capitale ranks highest in customer satisfaction among Quebec’s auto insurance companies with a score of 850 (on a 1,000-point scale). In fact, La Capitale receives the highest index score among carriers in all three regions this year. Continue reading ›

GM Touts Opening of Major Proving Ground in China

Tim Dunne

General Motors Corp. and several partners just opened what they claim is the largest proving ground in China, built with an investment of RMB 1.6 billion ($253 million). The Guangde Proving Ground in Guangde County, Anhui, located west of Shanghai, features 37 miles of test roads, and some of the industry’s most advanced technologies and processes, according to a GM China official.

Two of the partners, Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), will direct the proving ground’s operation. The proving ground, which features eight test areas including an oval track, vehicle dynamics test area, ride and handling loop, and noise test road, among others, can accommodate up to 140 vehicles for testing simultaneously. In addition, it has 23,000 square meters (247,569 square feet) of auxiliary space for labs, repair facilities and private workshops.

GM was among the earliest and has been the most active investor in R&D development in China. The PATAC facility is among the biggest—if not the absolute largest—foreign automotive R&D center in China where vehicles and vehicle components are designed and developed. Continue reading ›

Hino Ranks Highest in Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction

Hino, the Japanese truck brand, which is majority-owned by Toyota Motor Corp., ranks highest for a third consecutive year in customer satisfaction in the conventional medium-duty truck segment. Hino receives a score of 820 (on a 1,000-point scale) and performs particularly well on these factors*: warranty; cost of operation; cab and body; and ride/handling/braking, . . . Continue Reading Hino Ranks Highest in Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction

Medium-Duty Truck Satisfaction is Flat despite Better Quality and Fuel Economy

Brent Gruber

Advances in fuel economy and quality of medium-duty trucks were unable to offset increases in the cost of managing truck fleets, which negatively impacted overall satisfaction, according to results in our 2012 U.S. Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study, which is based on responses from principal maintainers of model-year 2011 class 5-7 conventional cab medium-duty trucks.

This year, customer satisfaction with medium-duty trucks* remains flat at 757 (on a 1,000-point scale), the same as in 2011, despite reported fuel economy improvements (up 12% from last year) and a step-up in quality with the number of problems per 100 trucks (PP100) declining an average of 18 PP100 from 141 PP100 in 2011 to 123 PP100 this year. Overall, Class 5 trucks continue to have the highest quality levels, averaging just 86 PP100.

Higher fuel and truck prices negatively impacted satisfaction this year, pushing principal maintainers to look at other cost savings options. However, our study results indicate that these fleet maintainers have concerns about new alternative fuel technology. Continue reading ›

Early September Retail U.S. Sales Pace Remains Robust

John Humphrey

After a strong close over the Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1-3), retail light-vehicle sales in September maintained a relatively healthy pace through the first half of the month. However, sales are expected to level off through the rest of September—but still will rise 12% from September 2011, based on a monthly forecast update from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) with strategic partner LMC Automotive.*

Through the first 14 selling days of the month, retail car and light-truck sales increased 15% from a year ago, reflecting a healthy market, although we expect retail sales to level off through the remainder of the month. Retail deliveries are projected to reach 952,200 unit sales, which translates to a seasonally adjusted annul rate (SAAR) of 11.8 million units, which is up by more than 1 million units from September 2011, but lower than August’s 12.6 million-unit retail sales pace. Continue reading ›

China’s Domestic Automakers Take a Hit, But Not All the News is Bad

Jacob George

After years of significant sales growth and business expansion, China’s domestic automakers have been on the receiving end of bad news in recent months. Some recent examples of stumbling blocks for China’s national automakers include:

• Year-to-date, the combined market share of China’s domestic automakers—which typically accounts for about one-third of annual passenger-vehicle sales—is down nearly 4%, in an overall market that is up 9%.

• In July, an influential automotive industry association predicted that more than half of China’s 48 domestic automotive brands (a majority have only been established in the last dozen years) would be discontinued in the next 3-5 years, principally due to foreign competition.

• In August, two of China’s leading domestic brands were forced to announce vehicle recalls in Australia (due to the affected vehicles containing the banned substance, asbestos). This recall prompted sober admissions of wrongdoing from the offending companies.

Certainly, these setbacks have been disappointing for a young industry racing to catch up with the world’s leading automakers. However, based on progress being made in other facets of the industry, there is still a major reason for optimism among China’s domestic brands. One area in which much progress has been made is initial vehicle quality. Continue reading ›

Midsize Vans—A Slight Revival?

Midsize vans are one of four segments (including sub-compacts, midsize conventional cars and compact crossovers) that posted year-over-year gains of more than 22% in August, based on J.D. Power’s (retail and fleet sales) transaction data.* In August, midsize van sales climbed 22.5% from a year ago and year-to-date sales were up by nearly one-fifth (+19.5%) from a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis.**

In a comparison of retail transaction data during the past 3 months (June-August 2012 and 2011), midsize vans averaged a week longer on dealer lots before being sold—54 days—than in the same time frame of 2011 (47 days). However, that was about half as long as during the first months of the recession in 2009, when midsize vans averaged 97 days on dealer lots before being sold.***

Fiat-Chrysler Group Remains a Dominant Midsize Van Player

Among automakers, Fiat-Chrysler Group remains the dominant player in the midsize van segment. In August, the best-sellers were, respectively: Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country and Toyota Sienna. Chrysler Group’s two entries garnered more than half of the midsize van deliveries in August. Continue reading ›

Sales of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Models Surge

Two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) performed well in August and during the first 8 months of 2012, while the pure electric vehicles have lost some of their first glow, according to transaction data and analysis from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and strategic partner LMC Automotive. In August, Toyota announced strong deliveries for its new Prius plug-in hybrid model, while Chevrolet Volt deliveries have recently gotten a boost. Sales have been a little  lackluster for the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i EVs. Highlights:

• After its first 6 months on the market, the Prius plug-in model (PHEV), which offers a standard 50 mpg-EPA rated Prius hybrid powertrain with extended electric vehicle (EV) driving, tallied more than 6,000 unit sales. Continue reading ›

Hybrid and EV Sales Charge Ahead in U.S. Market

In August, buyers bought and leased more than twice as many new vehicles with alternative powertrains as they did a year ago, according to transaction data and analysis from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and strategic partner LMC Automotive.

Sales of five hybrid/electric models—including the Toyota Prius hatchback hybrid—and two plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs)—including the Chevy Volt—more than doubled to 25,005 unit sales vs. 12,116 a year ago. Through the first 8 months of 2012, four brands offering six models—Toyota, Chevrolet, Nissan, Honda  and Mitsubishi—delivered 187,324 vehicles with alternative hybrid/electric, extended-range electric, and pure electric powertrains, which was a surge of 76% from the same period in 2011 (106,364 unit sales). Continue reading ›