After-sales service found wanting
The mainland may be a market where carmakers post record sales year after year, but some of the companies are not expanding their after-sales services quickly enough.
That is the conclusion of a recent survey that shows the satisfaction rate of car buyers after their purchases dipped for the first time in seven years, albeit by just one point, to 832, on a scale of 1,000 points compared with the previous year.
Two popular brands of the mainland's No 1 foreign seller General Motors - Buick and Chevrolet - slid to the 10th and 15th place this year, respectively, from the third and fifth rankings last year. The survey covered 68 brands.
The satisfaction rate on domestic brands continued to drop for the seventh straight year. Geely Automobiles and Great Wall Motors were among the few that climbed in terms of customer satisfaction this year; most others such as BYD, First Automotive Works and Shanghai Automotive Industry were not even ranked because their ratings fell below the overall average of 832 points.
Topping the list were Sino-Japanese joint ventures Guangqi Honda, Dongfeng Honda and Guangzhou Automotive-Toyota - which took up the first three places despite a disruption of their supply chains due to the earthquake-tsunami disaster in Japan in March last year.
The study, conducted annually by car consultancy J.D. Power, polled 14,657 new car owners earlier this year who bought their vehicles between February 2010 and May 2011.
Justin Min, senior analyst at the firm, blamed robust growth in car sales for declining customer satisfaction.
'Some car brands - the US ones, for example - have expanded too quickly in the past two years, while their number of dealerships, or the scope of their after-sales service, has not been able to catch up,' Min said.
The total capacity of dealerships across the mainland grew 14 per cent last year from 2010. However, the consultancy found each after-sales agent shouldered a 10 per cent increase in the volume of clients during the same period, posing greater strain on manpower and efficiency.
As growth in new car sales continued to slow, Min said, carmakers should boost their after-sales service because that was not only the new momentum for growth, but also crucial in retaining customers.
General Motors and its joint ventures sold more than 2.5 million cars on the mainland last year, up 8.3 per cent from its previous record of 2.35 million, set in 2010. Sales of Buick rose 17.4 per cent year on year to 645,537 vehicles last year, while Chevrolet surged 72.8 per cent to 30,008 units.