Satisfaction With Car Dealership Service at Record High

A car awaits repairs in the service department at a Chrysler dealership.
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A car awaits repairs in the service department at a Chrysler dealership.

Forget about the days when bringing your car into the shop was the type of experience that left you frustrated. A new survey by J.D. Power & Associates find customer satisfaction with auto service centers has hit a record high.

"Dealerships are placing more emphasis on the service adviser's role," said Chris Sutton, senior director at J.D. Power. "Having a skilled, trained adviser is vital for a positive customer experience."

Customer satisfaction with auto service centers has been steadily improving in recent years as automakers work with the dealers to refurbish or build new service centers. J.D. Power surveyed 91,000 owners of vehicles in their first three years of ownership. It is a period that covers the majority of the vehicle warranty period.

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Luxury Still Leads

Service centers at luxury auto dealerships ranked higher than those at mass brands, according to J.D. Power and Associates. That is not surprising given the emphasis luxury brands have placed on pampering customers with waiting areas that include coffee shops, business centers and even areas for a shoulder and neck massage. Luxury dealers see catering to customers and delivering an enjoyable experience at the dealership as being critical to developing brand loyalty.

Top 5 Luxury Dealer Service Centers

  1. Lexus
  2. Cadillac
  3. Jaguar
  4. Acura
  5. Infiniti

Source: J.D. Power & Assoc.

Mass Market Dealers Improving

The mass market automakers and their dealers are also seeing a rise in customer satisfaction. As a group, they still lag luxury dealers when it comes to service center experience. Still, the mass brands dealers are benefiting from the fact their models are becoming more dependable and customers are visiting the service center more for maintenance than repairs.

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"Owner satisfaction is generally higher for maintenance than for repairs for several reasons, primarily because maintenance tends to be less expensive and time consuming and can be scheduled and completed at the owners convenience," said Sutton.

Top 5 Mass Market Dealers Service Centers

  1. GMC
  2. MINI
  3. Buick
  4. Chevrolet
  5. Volkswagen

Source: J.D. Power & Assoc.

Independent Mechanics Still Cheaper

The J.D. Power Survey also found the average bill for a visit to an independent service center was far less expensive than a similar visit to a dealer's mechanic. On average, independent mechanics charged $44 for a visit, according to J.D. Power, while dealerships charge an average of $118.

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Between dealerships there is an even greater split. The average service trip to a luxury dealer cost $198 according to the survey compared with $108 for a mass market non-luxury brand dealer.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews