The overall satisfaction rating for franchised dealers among fleets has fallen from 76 in 2001 to 66.7 in 2005, according to Fleet News sister title Sewells Information and Research.
Sewells talked to 573 fleet managers about dealers covering 20 manufacturers. They were asked questions on a range of topics from buying factors to vehicle acquisition and servicing.
The questions included 37 on satisfaction levels. The results showed that fleet managers most valued the support that dealers give to company car users after delivery.
Aftersales service was a crucial consideration, but fleet managers attached much less importance to traditional dealer strengths in sales, such as acquisition advice and product knowledge.
It was not all bad news for manufacturers, however – six marques saw their satisfaction levels improve. Chris Oakham, research consultant for Sewells, said: ‘Now that new car retail sales have been in decline for the past three years, the fleet market has become more important than ever.
‘If dealers are going to earn their slice of this changing market then they must reverse the decline in satisfaction.’
Sue Robinson, RMI Federation franchised dealer director, said: ‘We are concerned at the results of the survey but the summary appears biased and one-sided. When we have had the opportunity to see the full details, we will certainly be discussing it with our franchised dealers and responding on its validity to the fleet managers on the points they have raised.’
Tim Rose, news editor at automotive management magazine AM, commented: ‘Faced with tough retail market conditions, many manufacturers and dealers are currently putting more focus on the fleet sector, by developing their corporate sales teams and expanding their aftersales operations.
‘The fact that this survey reveals fleet operators now list their relationships with franchises and dealers among their top three priorities, and say they are generally satisfied with these relationships, is reassuring for the motor retail industry.’