Deal­ers dish dirt

Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter: @JoshuaDowl­ing WITH JOSHUA DOWL­ING AND PAUL GOVER

CAR deal­ers rank along­side jour­nal­ists when it comes to public per­cep­tions but know­ing how happy or un­happy a dealer is with the brand they rep­re­sent might help you drive a bar­gain.

The Aus­tralian Automotive Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion has just pub­lished its top-se­cret an­nual re­port known as the dealer sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey — a copy of which has fallen in our lap.

The buy­ing public may not care about how a dealer is cop­ing with Aus­tralia’s su­per­com­pet­i­tive car busi­ness but the re­port makes for in­ter­est­ing read­ing.

For ex­am­ple, the Chrysler Jeep group of brands ranks last in the sur­vey of the Top 15 car com­pa­nies when it comes to “prod­uct qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and con­sumer ex­pec­ta­tions”. And that’s from the peo­ple who know the cars best: the deal­ers who sell them.

The re­port also did not bode well for Holden, Ford, Nissan and Mit­subishi, whose deal­ers rated the brands they rep­re­sent as be­ing be­low the in­dus­try av­er­age for the same cri­te­ria.

The graph for dealer prof­itabil­ity was also telling: deal­er­ships that sell Holden, Hyundai, Mit­subishi, Nissan, Honda, Kia, and Jeep were all be­low av­er­age. That means they have less in­cen­tive to in­vest in their deal­er­ships and their staff. It also shows that the past cou­ple of years of heavy dis­count­ing are start­ing to take a toll.

The profit for mar­ket leader Toy­ota was in­dus­try av­er­age. Else­where, deal­ers re­ported healthy mar­gins for Mazda, Ford, Subaru, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

So if you’re in the mar­ket for one of the lat­ter brands, be sure to hag­gle. But don’t be sur­prised if there’s not much wrig­gle room among the brands re­port­ing be­low av­er­age prof­its.

Two ex­am­ples of pop­u­lar small cars from the past two months: the mar­gin on one $20,000 Ja­panese car was $450 and on a $20,000 South Korean car was just $650.

No won­der they won’t throw in floor mats or win­dow tint on some cars these days.

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