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Best car dealers 2022

Our 2022 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey reveals the dealers who are doing the best job of new-car sales and servicing

Car dealers don’t always get a bad rap and there’s a lot of positivity from owners in our latest Driver Power survey. Which is a good thing, because dealers and the manufacturers they represent go to great lengths to try and ensure that facilities and staff are up to scratch. Typically this means spending lots on smart showrooms, and more on training and developing staff so that they’re able to meet customer expectations.

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But while all brands and dealers would say the same about their lofty aspirations, it’s certainly true that not all are able to deliver to the same standards when it counts. That’s why the Driver Power dealer survey is so useful for consumers and the retail industry alike. It provides an annual comparison of how fierce rivals and competitors are doing relative to each other. Not only does it shine a light on areas of success, it also highlights where things could be better, based on the experience of actual customers.

This year and its widely publicised shortages of new cars have brought frustration for many buyers, who have been kept waiting for deliveries, often with little effective communication from dealers.

Limited supplies and low sales have impacted this year’s survey too, with lower numbers of respondents for some brands in either the retail or aftersales sections meaning they’ve been left out of the overall top 16 listed below.

Driver Power 2022: the best car dealers

16. Skoda – 86.29%

Skoda dealer

Skoda is definitely on a roll when it comes to its products, but the brand’s dealers are a little off the pace according to Driver Power respondents.

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The results show it’s the new-car sales side that’s keeping the Czech brand’s scores down, with buyers ranking the firm’s retail operations next to bottom in the survey. Buyers don’t appear that impressed either by dealership facilities, staff performance or the deals they’re driving away with. That translates as parking provision scoring poorly, and low ratings for product knowledge and explanations during handovers, as well as low satisfaction with prices.

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Skoda’s aftersales scores are more middle of the range, with a 10th place for courtesy, and 11th for workmanship, but only 16th for dealer facilities.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 22.5%

Of the complainants, 90 per cent reported issues with unfixed and undiagnosed faults. Unanswered phone calls were the second biggest bugbear.

15. BMW – 86.48%

BMW dealer

Behind their glitzy facades, those BMW showrooms don’t necessarily seem to be delivering the sort of service that some other brands’ customers rave about. BMW outlets didn’t excel in either the retail or aftersales aspects of our survey.

The dealer facilities scored decently enough, albeit dropping a few points for parking provision, but the brand’s sales staff lose points for their approach to explaining vehicle features before and after the sale. Buyers also weren’t over the moon about the variety of models and trims available.

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BMW performed worse on the aftersales side, with facilities – especially parking – rated poorly and respondents giving low scores for value and the time it took dealers to complete jobs.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 18.4%

Nearly 40 per cent of complaints were related to failure to find and fix faults. There were also reports of discourteous staff and 23 per cent of complaints unresolved.

14. Jaguar – 87.35%

Jaguar

Although it sneaked ahead of BMW in our dealer survey, Jaguar’s performance was relatively mediocre in both retail and aftersales.

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In the former category, the brand scores were low for salesperson performance, showroom facilities and the handover process, but Jaguar edged a little back with the value of deals that buyers negotiated.

On the aftersales side, Jaguar romped to fifth place for its service centre facilities, but results for workmanship, value for money and timeliness were much less positive. Staff courtesy was scored pretty well, although dealers were not rated highly for how they communicate, with low scores for keeping customers informed about any works in progress, and drivers could be offered better explanations.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 24.5%

If only sales staff picked up the phone. Nearly 60 per cent of complainants cited unanswered calls, while 65 per cent of the issues were not resolved satisfactorily.

13. Volvo – 88.11%

Volvo dealer

Customers using Volvo dealerships have a somewhat mixed experience, with the aftersales service aspect of the business scoring much higher than the retail side.

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In particular, our aftersales respondents point to relatively poor satisfaction levels with the facilities on offer in dealerships: parking provision and the general appearance and comfort of showrooms were the areas scoring lowest.

The performance of sales staff wasn’t that impressive either, with low scores awarded for product knowledge. This lack of knowledge may also come into play at handover, where Volvo dealers fared especially poorly relative to their competitors.

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Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 7.4%

70 per cent of complaints focused on discourteous staff who didn’t explain issues properly. 60 per cent of complaints were not resolved satisfactorily.

12. Hyundai – 88.58%

Hyundai dealer

Perhaps its models’ five-year warranty mean it’s not surprising that Hyundai’s dealers offer an unexceptional service, but there’s no getting away from the fact that many scores are lacklustre.

There’s one exception, though, with owners rating both the communication and workmanship of the aftersales side pretty highly, lifting the ranking.

On the downside, even for aftersales, owners’ scores for facilities are below average, while the level of courtesy shown to customers is towards the bottom of the table.

It’s the same story when it comes to retail, where again it’s product knowledge and explanation of vehicle features that seem to be letting the side down. Staff fare better on responsiveness.

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Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 3.5%

Impressively few complaints were levelled at dealers; unexplained charges and a failure to identify and fix a fault were primary causes.

11. Mercedes – 88.96%

Mercedes dealer

It’s a game of two halves for Mercedes dealers who, despite the prestigious badge hanging outside, are not doing enough to impress the customers they’re selling cars to.

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Dealer showroom facilities are ranked at the bottom of the survey, with parking provision once again proving problematic, but appearance and comfort – and even cleanliness – aren’t rated as well as the best. Other brands have friendlier, more responsive salespeople with better product knowledge, it seems.

The picture is rosier on the service side, with Mercedes service staff coming top of the survey for personal courtesy, although scores suggest they could be a bit more forthcoming with courtesy cars.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 17.3%

Customers recorded a fair number of complaints; causes included cars not being ready when promised and the unexpectedly high cost of work.

10. Volkswagen – 89.13%

Volkswagen’s 10th place in the survey is helped a lot by its aftersales scores, and in particular the positive ratings given by customers for facilities. Hygiene, cleanliness and comfort of waiting facilities all scored well, but slightly lower satisfaction with courtesy car provision prevented the brand’s dealers scoring even better here.

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There’s more work to be done on the retail side, because customers scored the brand relatively poorly for showroom facilities, and the deals they negotiated. Sales staff themselves scored okay, without recording any exceptional figures, and there’s a sense from the results that product knowledge is less than impressive, particularly during handovers.

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Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 20.3%

Around a fifth of customers had a problem with aftersales service. A quarter of those were failure to identify and fix a fault.

9. Audi – 89.23%

This premium brand scores pretty well for its showroom facilities, as you might expect, but it could have done even better if customers’ satisfaction with service centre courtesy wasn’t dented by the limited availability of courtesy cars.

With new-car shortages and sky-high used-car prices, it’s perhaps no surprise if dealers are tempted to turn over stock rather than loan cars out to customers. But protecting profit margins doesn’t necessarily translate into happy customers, it seems.

Luckily, Audi’s performance in other areas is strong, with staff courtesy rated well. If there was one area to target for improvement, it would be perceived satisfaction over timeliness of completing work, and the value for money of that work.

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Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 6.3%

Unexplained bills and charges, and higher than expected repair costs were the key issues raised by Audi’s relatively small number of complainants.

8. Ford – 90.37%

Whoever is in charge of aftersales training in Ford’s network deserves a pay rise, because customers ranked satisfaction highest overall for workmanship and second for communication.

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While customers can’t fault the staff, overall rankings for service at Ford dealers fell back because of lower levels of satisfaction with facilities, and particularly those available in waiting areas.

It’s a similar story on the retail side of the Blue Oval’s dealer operations, with generally strong scores where the human factor is important, but things slip a little around the dealership environments and facilities.

However, Ford customers seem to be pleased with the new car deals they secure.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 7.8%

Ford is doing a lot better than some premium brands, with well under 10 per cent having complaints. Failure to identify and fix faults is top issue.

7. Nissan – 90.45%

Nissan rises from 13th in the 2021 Driver Power Survey to 7th this year – a commendable improvement – and the firm’s best scores came in the retail categories. One area highlighted as being strong was the deal-making; customers felt they could easily tailor finance options to suit their needs and that they ended up with a good deal.

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Nissan’s salespeople also get a positive reception – you told us they’re friendly and made all the paperwork involved in the sales process easy to understand.

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Things weren’t quite as good on the aftersales side. Many of you had trouble getting a courtesy car from your dealer, but at least staff were again courteous in their dealings.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 5.0%

Every one of the small number of customers with a complaint said the service centre failed to identify and fix the fault they had with their car.

6. Toyota – 90.78%

Toyota remains in sixth place in this year’s Driver Power Survey, once again finishing behind its sister company, Lexus.

The firm is known for its reliable cars, and Toyota puts in a much better performance for aftersales than retail. Owners were impressed by the standard of workmanship in service centres, as well as the time in which tasks were completed. Communication from technicians was also a strong area, with clear paperwork and good explanations.

On the retail side, it appears there were some issues with the handover process. Owners didn’t feel their cars’ features were explained in enough detail and would have liked a bit more communication in general.

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Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 5.1%

Not many customers had cause for complaint. Some said the service price was higher than they expected, but there was no other poor area.

5. Kia – 91.10%

The Korean firm achieved a bronze medal in last year’s survey, so Kia will be disappointed not to stay on the podium in 2022. However, a top-five finish is still pretty respectable.

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Communication from service centres was a strong area for the brand, particularly thanks to clear paperwork and straightforward explanations of various services. Buyers were also impressed with the options they had for tailoring finance options while buying a Kia, and the sales staff were said to be friendly and knowledgeable.

Customers who bought Kias during the pandemic were impressed by the virtual buying options offered and the cleanliness of the showroom when they visited in person.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 12.7%

Just over half of customers who complained said their car wasn’t ready when promised. Some cars were not cleaned or even not fixed.

4. Subaru – 91.30%

Subaru retains the same fourth-place spot it earned last year. What’s interesting, however, is the way in which its retail and service scores have switched around. In 2021, owners raved about their aftersales experience, but weren’t as happy with the sales side of things. This year, the Japanese brand has topped the retail rankings, but performed rather poorly when it came to servicing.

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You were hugely impressed with Subaru’s salespeople and the deals they were able to make for you. Plus you say the showrooms have good facilities and the handover process is slick.

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Owners didn’t get much courtesy from service centre staff, though, and thought that the workmanship was somewhat sloppy.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 13.7%

The vast majority of complaints related to the car not being cleaned. A few customers said cost estimates were not provided or exceeded.

3. Peugeot – 92.92%

The first of the podium places in this survey is taken by Peugeot, with an impressive set of scores. Owners highlighted excellent service centre facilities, particularly when it came to cleanliness, hygiene and compliance with Covid restrictions. Communication from the service centres at Peugeot dealerships is also notably good, we’re told, in no small part thanks to clear paperwork.

On the retail side, our respondents said Peugeot dealers offer a great selection of finance options across a broad range of models and trims.

Just under 11 per cent of owners had an issue with their aftersales experience and these were spread over several areas. The most common issue was the car not being cleaned following a service.

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Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 10.9%

Complaints about dealers were varied. Most common regarded the car not being washed or being ready when promised, and discourteous staff.

2. Lexus – 93.13%

Lexus consistently performs well in the Driver Power survey and 2022 is no exception, with the brand scooping first place for aftersales and second place overall for the second year running.

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Lexus’s service centres shone brightest of all. Owners love the facilities and are treated courteously by staff, who are also great communicators and can be proud of their workmanship.

Owners also report being happy with the deals they struck on their cars, and they told us the facilities at the brand’s showrooms are impressive.

Incredibly, only 2.9 per cent of Lexus owners had an aftersales-related complaint. However, not one of these issues was resolved by the dealer in a way that satisfied the customer.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 2.9%

Lexus received very few aftersales complaints. Of the small number there were, most simply related to the car not being cleaned following the service.

1. Honda – 93.38%

Honda is the winner of the 2022 Driver Power Dealers Survey, having risen from eighth place last year. The Japanese brand might not have topped the sales or aftersales tables, but its consistently strong scores in all categories carried it to a well deserved victory.

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The company’s best ratings were for its aftersales service. Owners were particularly impressed with the communication from the service centres and also thought the facilities here were excellent.

Respondents were happy with the retail experience Honda dealers provided, too. It seems showrooms offer attractive deals on models – particularly when it comes to tailoring finance options – with excellent value for money being reported. The salespeople encountered were friendly, you told us, and the clean, modern facilities were a welcome addition.

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Honda owners reported that 13.7 per cent of them had experienced some sort of issue with the brand’s aftersales service. The most common complaint was the car not being ready when promised. However, a reasonable 68.4 per cent of those with complaints said the issues they encountered were resolved to their satisfaction.

Percentage of owners who had a problem with service centre – 13.7%

Of the nearly 14 per cent of customers who had complaints, 68.4 per cent said their car wasn’t ready when promised.

Case study: Robert Crawford

Honda case study

Robert bought his CR-V from Western Honda in Stirling. He told us his experience was largely positive, the only catch being a five-month delay on the car being made because of the semiconductor shortage.

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“Other than that, it was quite a speedy process,” he said. “I picked up the car in January and it’s great. I’ve had every model of CR-V prior to this one and driving the hybrid is definitely a bit different.”

Robert is something of a Honda fan, owning cars and motorcycles from the Japanese brand. This was, however, the first time he’d visited the Stirling showroom and he was very impressed with the dealership’s modern facilities.

“It was a good customer experience,” he continued. “It was during the pandemic – they treated me really well and followed all the protocols. They were very attentive. The guy I had arranged to meet was busy with another customer, but one of his colleagues came over, offered me coffee and told me it would just be five minutes.

“Sure enough, he quickly came across. The test drive was easy – they just gave me the keys and sent me on my way, telling me to take as long as I wanted,” Robert continued. “They couldn’t send a salesperson with me because of Covid guidance, so they trusted me to bring the car back in once piece.”

Returning happily from his extended test drive, and wanting to buy the CR-V, Robert said he got a great deal that he’s very happy with.

Tell us all about your car and car dealer. Take the Driver Power survey now..

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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