Lexus has scored strongly in fleet managers' approval ratings for a second consecutive year, taking first place in no fewer than 14 categories in the annual Fleet Operators Attitude Survey 2002.
And in the critical section covering fleet managers' overall impression of franchises, both Lexus itself and its dealerships have retained pole position.
With eight second places, three thirds and numerous other high scores, the performance of this "specialist" brand and its dealerships has once again stolen the thunder from the volume fleet players.
This achievement is all the more notable in a year in which motor industry authority Sewells Information & Research, which carries out the survey, noted an intensification of competition, as customer satisfaction with franchises improved across the board.
The survey is an independent review of relationships between 550 UK operators of 25-vehicle-plus fleets, controlling more than 211,000 vehicles, and the 20 participating manufacturers and franchised dealerships.
A questionnaire and interviews with fleet managers and other senior executives responsible for fleet matters was carried out at the end of 2002. Apart from general areas, 62 specific questions covered vehicle acquisition, dealership sales operations and aftersales support, and willingness to do repeat business.
Lexus was the outright winner when managers were asked to rate their overall experience with both a manufacturer and its franchised dealers. The manufacturer was also deemed to have the most effective fleet and demonstrator programmes, the most competent fleet personnel and unmatched ability to solve problems quickly.
When it came to its dealership network, Lexus outlets were top-rated in terms of physical resources to meet transport needs, and ability to solve fleet managers' problems and concerns fast. The competence of senior management was second to none, as was the quality and condition of vehicles at time of delivery.
Lexus dealerships were also recognised for the "right-first-time" quality of their aftersales service. Staff were reckoned to be unsurpassed for quality of workmanship, for taking responsibility for and solving problems fast; and for ability to meet deadlines and keep promises. Support for out-of-warranty claims was also regarded as superior to that of other franchise dealerships.
"We're obviously delighted with the results, which underline that perception of the Lexus brand is very strong and that we're getting a lot of things right," said National Corporate Sales Manager Andy Simpson.
"At the same time, we succeed by being self-critical. We believe we can best maintain and improve on our position by scrutinising those areas in which we don't score so highly, and finding out how we can do better.
"One example is that we were criticised on proximity of local dealers. What that means is that we are not conveying the message that the level of service our dealers can offer to fleet customers makes their location almost irrelevant. They'll deliver and collect, they'll valet, they'll do everything to suit the customer - wherever they're based."
Top scores apart, Lexus performed notably in many categories, including product availability and ability to supply vehicles on time, acceptability of price structure, ability to create a friendly and businesslike relationship, availability of senior management when required, and understanding and response to important issues.
Dealerships also secured approval in terms of reliability of sales executives, opening hours, ability to carry out work when required, staff relationships with vehicle operators, ability to provide first-time fixes and parts availability.
And, crucially, Lexus was joint second when managers were asked whether they intended to obtain more vehicles from the franchises with which they dealt.
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