* Ram, Toyota tops among mass-market brands
* Lincoln scores worst among luxury brands
DETROIT, July 11 Mercedes-Benz dealerships were
tops for the third straight year in an independent study issued
on Monday of U.S. auto dealers that uses secret shoppers to
determine how customers are treated.
Mercedes-Benz, a Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) brand, was followed
by Jaguar, a Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) brand, and Lexus, the luxury
brand of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which tied for second.
Toyota's U.S. dealerships and Chrysler's Ram pickup truck
dealers were best among mass-market brands in the Pied Piper
study. Fuller results are at www.piedpiperpsi.com.
Chrysler is managed by Italy's Fiat SpA <FIA.MI.
Mercedes-Benz is in a tight race with BMW (BMWG.DE) to
overtake Lexus this year as the top-selling luxury brand in the
U.S. market. Lexus lost sales because of the March earthquake
and tsunami in Japan that curbed production.
While there are variations, the brands that scored the
poorest were those that had fewest sales per dealership, where
good sales people are difficult to retain, said Fran O'Hagen, CEO
of Pied Piper, based in Monterey, California.
Low-volume brands from Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) and
Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T) finished at the bottom of the
Reduced staff at dealerships has cut into customer
satisfaction particularly as car sales rebound and many dealers
find they have cut staff too much, O'Hagen said in a telephone
O'Hagen and Pied Piper sent 3,524 hired anonymous "mystery
shoppers" to U.S. dealerships, marking how sales people perform
in explaining the features of a car to finalizing a sale.
The keys to success are not a secret, said O'Hagen.
Focusing on the customer and tailoring answers to that
consumer's needs is important, and that requires taking time to
get to know the customer with a few basic questions about
driving preferences and habits, said O'Hagen.
THINK LIKE THE OWNER
A successful salesperson, and one who scores well with the
secret shoppers, stops thinking like a salesman and instead
thinks like an owner of a dealership, said O'Hagen.
"If you are not careful as a salesperson, even if you are
trying to do the right thing, subconsciously you size somebody
up," Hagen said. "You try to figure out whether this person
"An owner doesn't do that. An owner thinks, 'This person is
local. They will buy eventually, or tell someone how they were
treated here.' It's a different mentality."
Ford Motor Co's (F.N) Lincoln brand scored the worst among
luxury brands in the U.S. market, falling to below the industry
average score, O'Hagen said.
Ford also fell to below the industry average, Pied Piper
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)