Thursday, November 29, 2012 Is Coming

OEMs in our industry have largely fixed the most glaring issues associated with crummy supply chains. If you have found that your supply chain is not quite fixed, well, you should know what’s broken and how to repair it. If you are at the top of the heap, you know how to stay there. The operative word in all this is “you” … it’s your supply chain.

But, the customer service experience is largely out of your hands. It is in the dealer/distributor domain and all “you” can do is watch, influence, and reward.

Frustrating, isn’t it? You know exactly how to treat a service customer, you have incredible training resources, you have access to millions of dollars of reward funds. Yet, your guys still aren’t “my guys.”

Maybe you haven’t figured this one out yet. We are taking a stab at it. The first step is our launching of, which is targeted at dealer service managers and service advisors in North America. It has one purpose: education. It is a Swiss army knife for dealer service managers and service advisors. Like Consumer Reports, it has no brand affiliation. will put research into the hands of the people who matter – your service department professionals. The top-down approach hasn’t worked; it’s time for us to try a bottom-up approach. Regular updates will spoon feed key messages to this group.

Here’s what’s planned: we’ll share dealer best practices as they relate to market share, clips from dozens of focus groups will highlight the voice of the customer, there will be tips from top-performing dealers across the country, and a weekly blog will take a deeper dive into our research to synthesize all of our findings. With an objective eye, we will regularly review technology and tools available to dealer service professionals. All of this will be supplemented by over seven years of research. This content will not only inform your dealers, but also recommend ways to implement change.

More importantly, will serve as a dynamic community for dealer service departments. This website's real strength will be the involvement of your guys. “Get Involved” – you’ll see that phrase plastered all over the site. Your service departments will be able to submit successes and failures to us, ask questions about the program, discuss with each other on a forum, take surveys, interact through social media, and even see the latest automotive news. We will then funnel that collective knowledge back to their peers. Their participation will influence and evolve the site. Your dealers have a wealth of knowledge out there. So do we. It’s time to share it.

The Bottom Line: There has never been a central knowledgebase and community for service professionals. Well, it’s coming. Look for to launch in mid-December.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Right to Repair Passes in Massachusetts … by 85%

The following comes from
“When the final votes were tallied, 2,332,438 voters were in favor of Question 1, with only 393,625 in opposition, for an astounding 86% to 14% victory. “Voters sent a clear message to automakers– it’s my car, I paid for it, I’ll get it fixed where I want, not where some big corporation tells me to,” said Art Kinsman of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee. “Right to Repair is about true ownership. When you buy a car from a manufacturer’s dealer, you ought to have the information necessary to fix that vehicle. Technology should never leave the rights of car owner behind.” It is now illegal in Massachusetts for automakers to withhold repair and diagnostic information, not just for passenger cars, but for motorcycles, RV’s and bigger trucks and construction vehicles. By supporting Question 1, voters told big car manufacturer’s they are tired of paying significantly more for their out-of-warranty repairs at a franchised dealership. “We have now achieved complete victory in Massachusetts on Right to Repair. Until there is a national Right to Repair law or agreement, we hope this emboldens other states to strike a blow for car owners and pass their own Right to Repair statutes,” said Kinsman. Kinsman promised that members of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition will be vigilant following today’s vote to ensure there is complete compliance with the law and that independent repairers and car owners will have the resources they need to ensure they receive the full benefit of this landmark consumer protection law.”

Hmmm. Looks pretty bleak. 85% of Massachusetts was represented by Art Kinsman of the Mass RTR Committee (sounds so official), who is a small town lobbyist lawyer representing AAIA. This was the David that slew Goliath. I wonder who represented the interests of the auto industry? Probably a big firm with big excuses for failure. But, wait, didn’t we get a compromise bill signed by Deval Patrick before the vote? Yes we did! Here’s the status of this compromise from the Sentinel and Enterprise:

After years of commercials, a last-minute legislative compromise and an overwhelmingly approved ballot referendum, the battle over "Right to Repair" in Massachusetts is still not over. Automakers are urging state lawmakers to prevent the ballot question from becoming law. They favor a compromise signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in late July, when it was too late to pull the Right to Repair question off the ballot. … We think the Legislature should move to insure the provisions on this compromise law are the real law, the final law, as soon as possible," said Daniel Gage, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group that has opposed Right to Repair legislation. "The Legislature should move right away to give us the clarity automakers and dealers and auto repairers need." It remains unclear how lawmakers will address the issue, said state Rep. Theodore Speliotis, a Democrat from Danvers who chairs the legislative committee that worked on this summer's compromise. Under the ballot legislation, automakers are required to make repair information available to independent shops and dealers by 2015. The compromise legislation gives automakers until 2018. "I don't think it's that big a deal, to be honest with you," said Speliotis. "The message is more important than the actual implementation date." Automakers see it differently. With auto manufacturers already designing 2015 model vehicles, Gage said it will be virtually impossible for them to comply with the regulations in such a short time span. "It means Massachusetts car purchasers will have to go to Rhode Island or New Hampshire or Vermont or Connecticut to buy a car if it's not available in state," said Gage. … Proponents of Right to Repair, meanwhile, say they are willing to negotiate a deal with the Legislature that includes elements of the ballot legislation and the compromise law. "I think everyone has to take a breath and say, 'Let's look at these election results,'" said Arthur Kinsman, a spokesman for the Right to Repair Committee, which was a leader in getting the issue on the ballot. "We can't just go in and snap our fingers and dismiss what was done by the people. It would be unseemly and disrespectful to the vote." (

Bottom Line: Local small town lobbyists got RTR passed by 85% in Massachusetts. It will spread from here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Who’s Guy Are You?

“We already know that and we have programs and strategies in place that accommodate this…., so, we’ve got that one covered.” I hear this all the time. Wiley E. Coyote always has a plan, too.

The second most important thing that customers value from their service provider is that they “charge a reasonable labor rate” and by a whopping margin service customers think this is a dealer weakness. You already know this and you’ve got this one covered.

We received a daylight savings time service mailer this week from a pretty spectacular local car dealer, who thinks “it’s time to turn back your clocks.” The pitch is all about showing labor rates that span from $80 and hour to $110 and hour.


Bottom line: Maybe you haven’t got this one covered.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Are Those Reliability Surveys Reliable?

David P. Carlisle

Consumer Reports (CR) blasted Ford’s reliability recently. They said Ford continues to fall … even though they were “Detroit’s poster child for reliability” a few years ago. CR certainly does not have a problem with sample sizes – tens of thousands of zealous subscribers fill out those reliability survey forms with a lot of care and attention. J.D. Power pays you a dollar for their version – but, they do not employ zealots for their dollar-an-hour pay grade work.

Let’s assume that CR’s sample size was fine, and that their sample population was OK, too. Does this mean that Ford’s aren’t “reliable?Maybe not.

The problem might lie with the survey instrument and the binary summation of the survey’s “gestalt.” Let me make a point.

Ford is not the only one pushing the limits of infotainment systems in their products. In the 1960s, seatbelts were revolutionary and, yes, there were early and late adopters. Same with air bags. It’s all about technology that takes your vehicle to a new level of safety and security. Chrysler used air bags to differentiate itself and separate itself from the pack. It worked. Same goes for infotainment.

Same, but very different. I went to Google and typed in “ford my touch.” The top hit was for SYNC, the next was for a GPS software update for SYNC, and the third was for a lemon law firm that headlined “Does Your Sync Stink?” Hmm.

The difference comes from the sheer complexity of the infotainment systems, and the change (and complexity) of human interaction with these systems. Seat belt? Easy, snap it on until it clicks. No buttons to push or voice commands to master. Airbags? Hey, they’re invisible! No problem.

Windshield is fogging up fast and you want to clear it quickly? Well …… you have to depress a button on your steering wheel to get the robot lady to ask what you want. You have to prompt the system with the correct initial command. You have to remember what to say. You have to remember how to say it. You must pray to your god(s) and hope you got the sequence right before you lose all visibility. Actually, it is worse than this. In the old days you bought a car from a car dealer and the salesman pointed to a knob labeled “defroster.” If you’ve bought more than one car in your life, you ask the salesman to skip this step because you want to drive, and smell, your brand new car. Hey, the button says “defrost” on it. Dealer salesmen got lazy, asked you for “all 5s” on the survey (or filled it out for you) and life was good.

Not any more. You might need hours of education, coaching, and counseling (“ECC”). If you are a woman, you might need even more of this – many cars are “tone deaf” to women (I find this strange since women constitute a significant customer segment … like more than 50%). Who gives you this ECC? The dealer salesman who has been conditioned for about a half century to take their money and run. So, what ECC you do get is icky.

Well, this is a problem. It will certainly get worse when the vehicle enters the used car market, where there are no ECC resources to be found. Who cares much about that – it is 5.5 years away.

You get a survey in the mail on IQS, or vehicle reliability, on your brand new car. You might hate the infotainment system … especially if you are a woman and it can’t understand you. So, you nail them by black balling everything in your cockpit … it’s all connected and it is frustrating to use. The car is a brilliant execution of machine and technology, but you can’t figure out how to turn on the defroster when the windshield fogs up.

CR processes all this survey data and might not segregate the cockpit data. Their gestalt is that the model, the brand, the company is unreliable. They say you continue to fall … even though you were “Detroit’s poster child for reliability” a few years ago.

The simple chart to the right was posted on the Internet by a lemon law legal firm. It represents another way of looking at reliability. Of the top 20 cars listed, Ford only has one model. Hmm. Well this certainly doesn’t foot to CR. (The chart represents vehicle complaints on file with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Each year, thousands of customers call to register complaints about their vehicles. The complaint index is based on a ratio of the number of complaints for each vehicle to the sales of that vehicle. The numbers represent relative index scores, not the number of complaints received. The complaint index score considers sales volume and years on the road.)

Bottom line: Ford doesn’t have a problem with “reliability.” It has a problem with customer education, coaching, and counseling – ECC – of its infotainment technology. CR and J.D. Power do have a problem with reliability. Customers think reliability means that things don’t work – it sputters and stops and needs thousands of dollars of repair before its time. It certainly does not mean that they can’t figure out how turn on the defroster or turn off the radio. And, if Ford is infected with this “reliability” plague virus, everybody else is not very far behind.