American Dealers Prefer Japanese Auto Makers Over US, Survey Says – Wall Street Journal

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A sign outside a Chrysler auto dealer in Broomfield, Colo., on Oct. 1, 2014.

Owners of American dealerships prefer working with Japanese auto makers even after Detroit’s car companies spent heavily to make domestic retail networks more competitive, according to a new industry survey.

Dealers rank Toyota Motor Corp.


’s Lexus and Toyota franchises as the most valuable and say the Japanese company and two of its rivals are the most responsive to their needs, according to a report published Tuesday by the National Automobile Dealers Association. The group, which represents and lobbies on behalf of about 16,500 dealers, based its findings on responses from roughly 9,000 dealers to a survey about their views on franchise value, auto maker policies and the field staff that car companies employ.

The NADA’s report is the latest indication domestic auto makers still have work to do when it comes to strengthening relationships with constituents. In an influential annual study of car companies’ relationships with suppliers published last month, Planning Perspectives Inc. also placed Japanese auto makers above domestic counterparts in dealing with parts makers, although General Motors Co.


and Ford Motor Co.


have made progress in that area in recent years.

Ford and GM are reporting sizable profits in the U.S. amid record light-vehicle sales and low gas prices, which boosts demand of the light trucks that deliver a bulk of Detroit’s black ink. Many analyst reports, including Bank of America Corp.


’s most recent “Car Wars” pipeline report, have lauded domestic auto makers’ future product plans as well.

Another report card will come out later in June when J.D. Power unveils its annual Initial Quality Study. The IQS has long been viewed as an important litmus test on which auto makers make the best new vehicles. Lexus, Toyota and Honda Motor Co.


once dominated the field, but are now closely rivaled by Ford, GM’s Chevrolet brand and Lincoln.

In addition to representing brands, dealers have long played the role of being a customer for auto makers since revenue is booked on production rather than retail sales. If dealers pull back on orders or stockpile inventory, car companies need to cut production, boost incentives or dump output into rental fleets.

In the NADA’s survey, Toyota’s brands were followed by Honda and Fuji Heavy Industries


’ Subaru as favorites of auto dealers. Volkswagen AG


’s Porsche rounded out the top five brands— Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.


’s Jeep franchise—growing rapidly amid a sport-utility boom—and Ford’s Blue Oval brand were the lone domestic nameplates in the top 10.

While NADA said Lexus dealers were the most apt to respond to the survey, dealers selling Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai Motor Co.


, Porsche models and Fords also had strong participation rates.”

The results come several years after General Motors and Chrysler spent billions to knock out thousands of dealers from its U.S. networks. While having more dealers than competitors helps reach buyers in more places, it dents throughput and can jeopardize the profitability of individual stores.

Lexus dealers, for instance, sold about 1,472 vehicles per dealer in 2015, compared with 644 at Honda’s Acura stores, 1,033 at Daimler AG


’s Mercedes-Benz stores and 204 at GM’s Cadillac stores.

Write to John D. Stoll at


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