Automotive dealers are having a tougher time trying to handle all vehicle service requests within a reasonable timeframe, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study(SM) released July 11. "Record sales posted over the past two years, plus dealer downsizing efforts in some franchises, are making it difficult to get vehicles in for service," said Joe Ivers, partner and executive director, quality and customer satisfaction research. "Even though dealer service satisfaction is up overall, accessibility of dealer service is becoming the real differentiator in customer satisfaction. Record sales mean full service bays, and long lines at dealerships. Because of limits to dealer accessibility, customers get the impression early in the ownership experience that dealers do not need their business. This sets the stage for increased future defection of customers to aftermarket (i.e. non-dealer) service facilities for customer-paid work. Those dealers that stand out for inconvenience during these `boom' times will see greater defection to aftermarket service facilities during the post-warranty ownership period." Dealers who make the service intake process easy, on the other hand, enjoy the highest levels of customer satisfaction, according to the study. Lexus Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Dealer Service For the fifth straight year, Lexus ranks highest in Customer Satisfaction with Dealer Service among all major automotive nameplates. "Since the first inclusion in the study in 1991, Lexus has definitely raised the bar on how dealer service is to be judged," said John Harbicht, senior manager of service satisfaction research at J.D. Power and Associates. "No one satisfies their customers as does Lexus; unequivocally, owners are given service that is consistently outstanding. Lexus provides exceptional treatment in making it easy to obtain appointments, vehicles serviced are almost always fixed on the first visit, and they provide amenities that delight and please their customers." Closely following Lexus in the ranking is Saturn, who also finished just behind Lexus in 2000. "Saturn sets the gold standard on customer treatment and is heads above other non-luxury nameplates," said Harbicht. "Saturn does an excellent job of making vehicle servicing a relatively painless experience through easy appointments, quick service and quality repairs, all adding up to highly satisfied customers." General Motor's luxury marque Cadillac showed impressive improvement in 2001. Moving up four rank positions from 2000, Cadillac achieves the third-highest ranking in CSI. One of the key elements to Cadillac's rise has been an increase in the ratio of maintenance-only servicing. Cadillac owners are very pleased with the improvement in ease of getting their vehicles in for service and the "high touch" customer relations at the dealership. The CSI study, which was pioneered by the firm in 1981, focuses on experiences with the dealer service department during the first three years of vehicle ownership, which represents the majority of warranty periods. The study is based on responses from more than 56,000 new-vehicle owners and lessees and continues to provide benchmarking of dealer service satisfaction across the U.S. automotive industry. J.D. Power and Associates independently funds the study. About J.D. Power and Associates With headquarters in Agoura Hills, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on actual customer responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates can be accessed through the Internet at