STUTTGART - Mercedes-Benz dealers believe that a new sales initiative should not link customer satisfaction scores directly to dealer margins.
The program, called CSI, Number 1, is part of DaimlerChrysler and Mercedes Car Group head Dieter Zetsches Appreciation program, a wide-ranging directive to improve Mercedes image and customer service.
Zetsche wants the level of dealer margins in the new-car business to be determined according to the level of customer satisfaction.
Not everyone agrees that is the right approach.
The margin system is not the place to look for customer satisfaction results, said Peter Ritter, president of the Mercedes dealer association in Germany.
The manufacturer only has to distinguish where the dissatisfaction is coming from.
Mercedes has suffered in customer satisfaction of late.
In Germany, Mercedes largest market, the automaker ranked 11th out of 35 brands last year in J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) – below Audi, BMW, Daihatsu and Skoda.
The CSI examines service satisfaction, vehicle appeal, ownership costs and quality and reliability.
Mercedes dealers said the brands CSI scores suffered because of product quality issues – especially the technical problems that led to two major recalls of the E class.
Dealers have complained that they are punished for the mistakes of the manufacturer.
Ritter said dealers shouldnt suffer because of product problems, which are beyond their control. Another dealership representative called for people in charge of production, sales and marketing within the company to be paid according to CSI first of all.
The average profit margin for the 135 German Mercedes dealers, with their 698 sales points, was 0.7 percent in 2005, only slightly above the industry average.
You may e-mail Harald Hamprecht at [email protected]