Thursday, February 7, 2013

The North America Parts Manager Survey Is Complete: Availability Is Still The Biggest Driver of Parts Manager Satisfaction; Pricing, Not So Much

How well is the automotive industry doing in terms of satisfying its parts managers? What is most important to these parts managers? Carlisle’s most recent North America Automotive Parts Manager Satisfaction Survey (PMSS) was conducted in September 2012 and the results help shed some light on this.
On a comprehensive basis, U.S. parts managers expressed the highest Overall Satisfaction (54% “Very Satisfied”, otherwise known as “Top Box”) with their OEMs, followed by Canadian (42%) and then Mexican parts managers (31%). From a brand perspective, Asian car companies dominated Overall Satisfaction among U.S. parts managers, while European brands took the lead in both Canada and Mexico.

Looking at changes in scores between the last two surveys, twice as many OEMs experienced increases as those with decreases in Overall Satisfaction. Also, note that the gap between Asian OEMs and non-Asian OEMs is shrinking – most of the gainers are non-Asians, while most of the decliners are Asians.
One of the most impressive improvements was a Detroit-based OEM that, in 2012, enjoyed a 9.5 point gain in Overall Satisfaction, on top of an industry-leading 15 point gain in 2011. That’s a 25 point gain in just two years – a huge improvement from the dark days of 2009!

The chart below shows Overall Satisfaction across the individual categories, looking at industry high, low, and average. The average satisfaction for the highest categories (Parts Reps and Order Processing Systems) is twice as high as that for the lowest categories (Accessory Support and Pricing).
Further, every category, other than Retail Inventory Management (RIM), shows at least a 40 point gap between the industry high and industry low. These gaps highlight the fact that there is a tremendous opportunity for improvement by benchmarking and sharing best practices across the industry.
Non-U.S. entities made great strides in satisfaction over the past year. Canadian or Mexican brands represented the biggest year-over-year improvement in 15 out of 18 categories. Granted, the U.S. brands started at a higher satisfaction level. However, roll-out of new programs, processes, and systems is reflected in the large performance improvements at Canadian and Mexican OEMs.

We spoke with representatives from all of the OEMs that “moved the needle” in the most recent survey. While we can’t share the details in this public version of the report (participating OEMs received details with attribution), some of the key initiatives included:
  • Modifying call center schedule (hours/days open, staggered staffing during breaks, etc.)
  • Enhancing order systems to allow dealers to self-service their non-critical needs
  • Replacing poor performing “assets” (field representatives, transportation providers, etc.)
  • Extending order cut-off times (without impacting operations) by staggering order printing/releasing throughout the day rather than at beginning of the shift
  • Implementing new wholesale programs with dedicated staff to support dealers
  • Holding vendor ship-direct suppliers to strict delivery/ back order ETA requirements
Finally, every year we examine topics which are most important to our dealers. For the most recent survey, Availability and Phone Support were the top statistical drivers of satisfaction across the industry – a pattern we have seen for the past few years.

Availability is the most universal of these issues. At least one OEM from each group (Domestic, European, Asian, Canadian, and Mexican) had Availability as the top driver of Overall Satisfaction among surveyed parts managers. Conversely, phone support (both Order Processing and Technical Support) seemed relatively more geographically focused. Out of the nine OEMs where one of the phone categories emerged as a top driver of satisfaction, six are Canadian. It is also interesting to note the relatively low importance of Pricing. While it is often the number-one topic discussed at dealer meetings, statistically, it does not even crack the top five in terms of impacting Overall Satisfaction.

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The PMSS is a comprehensive, online survey that covers all phases of OEM support to their parts managers. It addresses 18 topics, including parts availability, delivery, technical support, training, field support, catalogs, and parts marketing. The surveys contains over 100 questions focused primarily on satisfaction, but it also covers key areas such as dealer fill rates and priorities for improvement. Along with the quantitative feedback, the 11,000+ respondents provided almost 65,000 verbatim responses with specific, actionable feedback for their sponsoring OEMs. 2012 was our 11th year conducting this survey on behalf of the auto industry. This year’s participation was our largest ever, with respect to both respondents and participating OEMs. We received responses from over 11,000 parts managers, representing 17 U.S., 12 Canadian, and eight Mexican automotive OEMs. If you have any questions on this or any other Carlisle syndicated survey, please contact Harry Hollenberg at 978-318-0500 x-106 or

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