How Would Dealers Rate Their Brand? Scorecard Ranks Winners and Losers

By separating desirable aspects into “subjects” tied to a graded system, you get a better sense of where specific manufacturers are weak. Core subjects include a brand ability to capture the “best customers” (people who frequently purchase new vehicles and get most of their servicing done at the dealership) to the newness and diversity of a brand’s lineup.

There are even metrics for the general attitude associated with a given brand, how much digital/physical traffic their products receive, and customer loyalty, with bonus points awarded to automakers for delivering consistent shares across market areas or allowing dealers to work more freely with OEMs.

Overall, this put premium nameplates on a more consistent average. Their ability to repeatedly acquire the “best customers,” while also offering fresher lineups and a superior public image served them well. Unfortunately, this meant that one major demerit in any category had the ability to throw them to the bottom of the pile.

For example, Jaguar scored well in most categories. But its lackluster vehicle range and middling consumer loyalty resulted in the lowest overall score of any luxury automaker. Tesla, Genesis, Porsche, and Land Rover were also severely impacted by their limited model offerings — despite the latter pair being almost unstoppable everywhere else. Were it not for their more focused fleets, all four would have placed much higher overall.

The takeaway here should be just how close a race it is between most premium brands. “One additional vehicle in the Lexus lineup would have put [them] on top of Mercedes,” explained Smoke.

LUXURY BRANDS (2018)

Make Best Customers Range Age Traffic Loyalty Attitudinal
Mercedes-Benz A A- A A A A
Lexus A B+ A A A A
BMW A A A A A A
Acura A C A A A A
Audi A B+ A A A A
Cadillac A B- A A B A-
Volvo A C A A B+ A
Porsche A F A A+ A A
Land Rover A F A- A A B+
Lincoln A- C+ A C+ B B+
Infiniti A- C+ A A C+ A
Genesis A F A+ C- A+ A
Tesla A+ F C+ A A A+
Jaguar A F A B C B+

Things were more diverse in the mainstream breakdown, with both higher and lower scores overall. Ford narrowly beat Toyota for top honors, thanks to bonus points stemming from superior “geographic consistency.” Chevrolet garnered extra credit for also having a consistent market share balance across the United States.

NON-LUXURY (2018)

Make Best Customers Range Age Traffic Loyalty Attitudinal
Ford A A- A- A A A
Toyota A A A A A A
Honda A C A A A A
Chevrolet A- A A A A A
Subaru A F A A A A
RAM B+ F C+ A A A
Hyundai A C A C A A
Jeep A F B+ A+ A A
GMC A F B+ A A- A
Nissan B A B+ C A A
Kia B- D+ A+ F A A
Dodge C+ F A A F A-
Volkswagen A F A- F A A
Chrysler A F A A D+ A
Mazda A D+ A C- A A
Buick A F A F C A
Mini A+ F A F C C+
Fiat A F B+ F B+ F
Smart A F B F C+ F
Mitsubishi D F A- F F B-

The brands that performed the best were the ones that lacked any major blemishes on their score card. Being overly specialized was seen as overwhelming negative. When stacked with weaknesses in other subjects, an automaker was swiftly assessed as a bottom-rung contender. In fact, most companies that received an C ranking in product diversity (range) could count on being in the bottom half of the pack.

There’s more to unpack here and, considering Automotive News’ involvement in the project, their assessment might be a good place to start. It goes into slightly greater depth and offers an adjusted grade point average for each brand.

For those of you not interested, and perhaps still confused by the study’s metrics for each category, here they are, as stated by Cox Automotive:

Best Customers: Analyzing segmentation data from Claritas, the team identified a brand’s ability to capture ideal customers — those who, among other traits, are most likely to buy new; buy frequently; obtain financing from the dealership; and return to the dealer for parts and service.

Range of Offerings: Assessing the strength of a brand’s products across the segments driving volume and growth in the market. The more complete the offerings, the more likely a brand will attract the best customers.

Age of Offerings: Grading the “newness” of a brand’s vehicle line-up by looking at specific models and their life cycle. As is well documented in the industry, a fresh product line drives interest and traffic and more profitable sales.

Digital Traffic: Measuring website traffic from Autotrader.com and KBB.com, two of the largest consumer shopping sites – both of which are Cox Automotive properties. This data set grades consumer interest by measuring average new car shopping activity by model.

Shopper Loyalty: Assessing shopper loyalty on KBB.com developed by observing consumers who price a trade-in from one brand and then price a new vehicle from the same brand. Higher shopper loyalty increases the likelihood of satisfied customers and repeat purchases.

Attitudinal: Using data from Kelley Blue Book’s Brand Watch study, all brands are rated in the key attributes that most drive purchase behavior, including reputation, durability, affordability, and safety.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz; Ford]

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