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.

Mini-Car Owners Can Be Most Challenging Service Customers

Several interesting findings in our 2012 study, which measures owner satisfaction with service at the dealership where the vehicle was purchased during the most recent one-year period include include:

• Among customers who switched from a domestic mass market brand to a mini-car brand, overall satisfaction with dealer service averages just 584 points—12 points lower than for mini-car owners who stayed with mini-car brands.

• In contrast, customers who switched from a mini-car brand to a domestic mass market brand were much more satisfied, as their service satisfaction score averaged 32 points higher than the average score for mass-market brand owners who purchased a mini-car.

• Domestic mass market brand customers who switched to a mini-car brand expressed lower satisfaction in all factors** measured in the study, in particular with the service representative, service system/process and service content factors.

Lexus and Mini Outpace Other Brands in Customer Service Satisfaction

In findings that are similar to results in the 2012 U.S.CSI Study, Lexus and MINI rank highest in their respective segments. Lexus, for the sixth consecutive year, ranks highest in the luxury segment with an overall CSI score of 761 points, which is the same as its score in 2011, but 64 points higher than this year’s luxury segment average of 697. BMW, which earns 703 points, is the only other luxury brand to receive a service satisfaction score above the industry average.

Mini earns the highest index score of 628 points in the mass market brand segment. BMW Group’s British brand performs particularly well in three of five factors measured: service representative, service content and facility. Four more mass market brands receive scores that are above the mass market segment average of 614 points. They are, in respective order: Honda (627); Nissan (626); Toyota and Volkswagen, in a tie, (618).

We observe that competition from the major makes, such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan, continues to pose a threat to conventional mini-car brands in capturing and retaining customers. Yet, even if mini-car dealerships are typically less competitive in terms of size, resources and the quality of customer handling, it is vital for them to make improvements in customer service, courtesy, and the overall service process so customers return for service, routine maintenance, shaken*** safety inspections, and other services. Taku Kimoto, executive director of the automotive division at J.D. Power Asia Pacific, Tokyo

Note: The 2012 Japan Customer Service Index (CSI) Study is based on online survey responses from more than 12,500 domestic and import vehicle owners after 15 to 50 months of ownership

*Mini-vehicle manufacturers supply models to Toyota and Nissan Groups, which are sold under these groups’ brands. The mini-car segment share has increased despite a decline in mini-car sales since deliveries peaked in 2006, according to Japan’s daily Yomiuri Shimbun.

**The five factors that comprise the Japan CSI index and their importance are: service representative (23%); service charge (22%); service content (21%); service system/process (19%); and facility (15%).

***Shaken inspections are required every two to three years to ensure that vehicles are properly maintained, safe to be on the road and have not been illegally modified.

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>