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NADA poll exposes factory-retailer rifts
NADA Dealer Attitude Survey's Overall Attitude Index for Winter 2015, including the Value, Policy and People indexes
Brand Score
Lexus 91.7
Toyota 90.1
Subaru 90
Audi 86.6
Ford 85.4
Honda 84.8
Mercedes-Benz 84.7
Porsche 84.6
Jeep 82.8
Mazda 82.2
Ram 81.7
Kia 80.9
Industry average 80.4
Acura 79.8
Land Rover 79.6
Dodge 78.8
Hyundai 78.5
Chevrolet 78.3
Buick-GMC 78.2
Chrysler 78.2
Lincoln 77.3
Mitsubishi 76.6
BMW 76.2
Scion 75.2
Cadillac 74.4
Nissan 74.4
Volvo 73.6
Jaguar 71.5
Fiat 69.2
Smart 68.1
Mini 66.4
Infiniti 65.6
Volkswagen 62
Lindsay Chappell RSS feed
Automotive News
August 24, 2015 - 12:01 am ET
A good time isn't being had by all.

Even as new-vehicle sales climb toward historic levels, dealers with Volkswagen, Infiniti, Mini, Smart and Fiat franchises are concerned about the long-term value of their franchises and their relations with manufacturers.

Dealers with those brands are the most disgruntled overall, according to the most recent Dealer Attitude Survey, conducted and distributed twice a year by the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Lexus dealers expressed the most upbeat attitude in the industry, according to scores on the survey's Overall Attitude Index, followed by dealers for Toyota, Subaru, Audi and Ford.

The survey, based on responses from about 10,600 dealerships and conducted Jan. 5-Feb. 12, is not intended for public consumption. An NADA spokesman declined to discuss its contents after Automotive News obtained a copy of its summary.

In the summary, NADA said its line representatives and staff had completed 23 meetings with more than 300 executives, including senior management, from the 32 franchises represented in the rankings to convey and discuss the findings.

The overall index combines results from survey responses on:

• Value: These questions focus on past, present and future franchise values and dealers' perceptions of the brand's product quality and desirability.

• Policy: These questions ask about the automaker's consideration of dealer input, its policies to support dealer efforts in achieving customer satisfaction and whether the factory's policies and procedures are fair.

• People: These questions concern dealer sentiment toward the franchise's field staff.

Fiat Chrysler's dealers scored their brands' field personnel the worst on the survey. The four lowest-ranking brands in this area of the survey, starting from the bottom, were Fiat, Chrysler, Ram and Dodge. Jeep tied with Smart and Mini for fifth-worst.

VW, Infiniti

Aside from the People section of the survey, though, VW and Infiniti were the consistent cellar dwellers. A lack of new product appears to factor heavily into that. Dealers of both brands are hungry for new vehicles. VW dealers have been particularly unhappy about their lack of crossover models as U.S. sales in that segment soar.

But scoring poorly in one category of the survey does not necessarily reflect a brand's market performance. BMW's dealers ranked their brand fourth from the bottom when it came to factory policies and fourth from the bottom on whether BMW values its dealers' input. Yet the brand has been having a sales heyday and is rich with new models. BMW became the luxury segment sales leader in 2014, just as dealers prepared to take this survey.

The survey makes a point of singling out a few brands for the attitude gains among their dealers. It notes that Acura moved up to 13th on the Overall Attitude Index. It previously ranked 25 of 32.

Acura's score in the Policy segment of the survey jumped 6.4 points from the prior survey to 77.0. In the Policy segment, Lexus led with a score of 91.8 while VW brought up the rear with a score of 59.3.

'Report card'

"We take this as a real report card on how we're doing, and we really do make changes," said Matt Walsh, Acura's assistant vice president of field sales.

Walsh said Acura's dealers have responded positively to the creation of a six-dealer advertising board last year, formed in response to past NADA survey input that Acura's national advertising effort was subpar.

Last summer, Acura inaugurated a Dealer Dialogue program to give retailers more input.

The program is a live, quarterly town hall meeting in which dealers can phone in with questions and get feedback.

"Sales come and sales go," Walsh said. "The thing that doesn't change is your dealer relationships."

He added: "There has to be a good dialogue between the company and the dealers to get things done."

In response to questions about the survey, NADA issued a statement calling it "an important tool in helping foster better dealer-manufacturer relationships."

"It's the true voice of the dealer," the statement said. "Through these presentations and discussions, NADA is able to accurately convey timely dealer sentiment with the hope the OEMs engage in a more constructive and problem solving relationship with their dealers."
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