Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) manufacturers are continuing to improve their status with dealers, according to the 2018 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s (EDA) 2018 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations report.
Scores for all 12 satisfaction categories measured increased over last year and average scores for all 21 OPE manufacturers have increased 5.88% from 2014-2018.
LS Tractor and Scag have once again earned the top recognition, Dealer’s Choice awards. This is the fourth consecutive year for LS Tractor, with Scag earning the award again this year as well as in 2017 and 2014.
Gold Level recipients in the OPE category were ECHO, Exmark, Ferris, Grasshopper, Shindaiwa, STIHL, Walker and Wright Mfg.
The tractor category included Branson Tractor and Yanmar America as Gold Level recipients. TYM was named the “Most Improved” of 2018. (Click Here to Read More) This designation goes to the manufacturer that receives the greatest percentage increase in overall ratings from the prior year.
Equipment dealers rate up to 7 of the manufacturer lines they carry in 11 categories, as well as give a separate rating for overall satisfaction. (See the table, 2018 EDA Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey.) This year, more than 2,200 dealers participated in the survey, providing 8,800 individual ratings — that’s 4 manufacturers rated per dealer on average. Dealer responses were collected anonymously by a third party research firm. (For more details, see the sidebar, “Survey Methodology Statistics.”)
Dealers rated the manufacturers on a 1-7 scale, where a 1 represents “extremely dissatisfied,” and a 7 represents “extremely satisfied.” Survey respondents represented all 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. (See the table, “Dealer Ranking of Category Importance.”)
“Our Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey is critical for dealers and manufacturers. Dealers can anonymously give their opinions on their manufacturers and use the resulting data to evaluate their product mix. Manufacturers, on the other hand, use the results to take the temperature of their dealer networks and find areas of improvement,” says Joe Dykes, EDA’s vice president of industry relations.
Overall, OPE manufacturers improved their ratings among dealers. The aggregate mean scores for all 12 ratings categories increased slightly, from 5.58 in 2017 to 5.62 in 2018. (See the table, “Ratings Trends.”) The category’s aggregate scores have seen steady improvement, save for one year, since 2014.
Tractor manufacturers, on the other hand, saw their aggregate mean dip from 4.98 in 2017 to 4.84 in the 2018 survey. This marks the second consecutive year of a decline in the aggregate score, following year-over-year score increases from 2014 to 2016.
The table shows the aggregate mean for each manufacturer classification on the 1-7 scale for all 12 rated categories over the past 3 years, according to the Equipment Dealers Assn.’s Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey.
Full-line manufacturers registered an aggregate mean of 4.86 and OPE manufacturers saw the highest mean of 5.62. The mean scoring for all manufacturers combined came out at 5.41, the same as last year.
Shawn Skaggs, president and chief operating officer of Livingston Machinery Co., Chickasha, Okla., cautions against comparing manufacturing categories against each other. For instance, a shortline manufacturer does not have to deal with the same issue as a full-line manufacturer, he says.
“A shortline has a big advantage in my opinion, because they’re able to focus on one specific type of product. They don’t have nearly as many products to satisfy the dealer on or satisfy the customer on. That’s what the full-line manufacturers have to do. It’s only natural that you’ll see higher scores on the shortlines,” Skaggs says.
Jim Herbert offers a perspective on manufacturer-dealer relations. Herbert is principal and owner of Bud Herbert Motors, a 2-store John Deere turf dealer with locations in Cincinnati and Harrison, Ohio. Herbert serves on the board of the United Equipment Dealers Assn. (UEDA) and is chair of the UEDA Outdoor Power Equipment Dealer Council.
Herbert has seen changes over the years in terms of how the major ag manufacturers work with dealers, but the issue has always been there. “The major ag equipment manufacturers have their own agenda. It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to work toward those goals. It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to put programs in place to ensure that dealers succeed. If either player drops the ball, the relationship could fail,” he says. (Read additional dealer comments in the sidebar, “Dealers Sound Off on Survey Results.")
Analyzing OPE Ratings
Scag may have won its second consecutive “Dealer’s Choice” award, but it certainly faced healthy competition from its peers. The manufacturer had the highest mean score for all 12 rating categories, and it also took home the best score in 3 categories: Product technical support, parts availability and parts quality. (See the sidebar, “Scag Earns Third Dealer’s Choice Award” for an interview with Scag President Chris Frame.)
However, it was Exmark that scored highest in the greatest number of categories. The 5 metrics in which the manufacturer came out on top were return privileges, communications with management, warranty procedures, warranty payments and marketing & advertising support.
For the 2018 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey, dealers were asked to rate the importance of each of these categories as it relates to the overall relationship with a manufacturer. The mean number represents the degree of importance. The lower the number, the more important the category is to dealers.
Scag’s scores overall dropped from last year. Its average score decreased by 2.39% from the 2017 survey. The company’s average scoring has been up and down since 2014. Its average score rose 2% in 2015; fell about 1% in 2016; rose 3.39% in 2017; and then fell again in 2018.
Exmark, too, has seen its scores slipping recently. From just the 2017 survey, the manufacturer lost ground in half of the 12 categories, as well as its average score.
The categories it fell most in year-over-year were product availability, where it dropped 11.98%; parts quality, a 11.35% drop; and parts availability, a drop of 9.45%. Still, it saw significant improvement in other categories, such as return privileges, which increased 9.91% year-over-year; warranty payments, a 5.82% increase; and communications with management, an increase of 4.69%.
In large part, Exmark had been trending upward since 2014 until this most recent survey. Between 2014-2017, the manufacturer’s mean score had increased by 2.75% on average, but then fell 2.21% from 2017-2018.
Tracking Tractor Ratings
LS Tractor, the Dealer’s Choice recipient among tractor manufacturers, scored the highest in all but 4 categories. It also had the highest mean score of 5.84. Yanmar had the best score in 3 categories: product quality, parts availability and product technical support, all of which are in the top four of most important categories as determined by survey respondents. Mahindra scored highest in 1 category.
LS Tractor’s scores actually decreased from last year, however. Its mean score fell 4.02%. The biggest year-over-year gain in mean score came from TYM (12.46%), followed by Yanmar (9.55%).
JCB had the lowest scores in 6 of the 12 categories, as well as the lowest mean score of 3.88. Of the six remaining categories, Versatile claimed the lowest score in 5 and McCormick had the lowest score in one.
Survey Methodology Statistics
- The Equipment Dealers Assn. distributed the Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey to its dealer list, which includes members and non-members on Feb. 7 and gave them a chance to respond until March 7. To assist in distributing the survey, 28 manufacturers provided lists of their U.S. and Canadian Dealer networks.
- The 56 manufacturers featured in this report received a minimum number of dealer ratings as required to be included in the report.
- There were 2,224 individual dealer contacts who participated in the survey. Dealer responses were received from all 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. Manufacturers received over 8,800 individual selections for dealer ratings or four manufacturers per dealer.
- Compared to last year’s survey, 25 of the 56 manufacturers experienced an increase in dealer responses.
- About 59% of the respondents were for OPE manufacturers.
Gaining and Losing
A total of 21 OPE manufacturers have been scored all 5 years between 2014 and 2018. Of those, Dixie Chopper has seen the largest uptick in its mean scores, with an increase of 38.37% in 2018 vs. 2014. The sharpest decline comes from Ariens, whose score fell 6.62% from 2014.
Only 3 tractor manufacturers have been included in the EDA survey reaching back to 2014. Of those 3 — Kioti, Mahindra and McCormick — Kioti has seen the most improvement in that period. The manufacturer’s mean score increased 2% between 2014 and 2018, and it averaged year-over-year improvements of 0.45%. Mahindra’s mean score, meanwhile, fell 10% in that time period, with an average annual change of –2.41%. McCormick’s mean score dropped 13% and averaged a 3.37% decrease year-over-year from 2014-2018.
Scag Earns Third Dealer’s Choice Award
Scag has earned its third Dealer’s Choice award from EDA’s Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey, scoring the best rating in three categories — product technical support, parts availability and parts quality — and securing the highest average score for all categories.
Chris Frame, a 20-year veteran of Scag, and most recently Scag vice president and general manager, took over as president late last year. Here are his thoughts about why dealers continue to rank Scag so high.
Can you comment about your first months as president of Scag?
We have been evaluating all areas of our business to determine what areas we can improve upon. Our programs, our products, our support. Everything is on the table for improvement.
What initiatives do you credit for the reasons dealers rank Scag so favorably?
I think the overall ‘can do’ attitude at Scag is a big part of it. We are always asking, “How can we do it better?” We listen to our customers and try to react as quickly as possible to meet their needs. Our distribution network is also a vital component of our success. They provide an important, added level of sales, marketing, product and service support at the regional level.
Scag’s ratings are down slightly from last year. What are your thoughts about that?
It tells me we need to work even harder to not only meet, but exceed our customers’ expectations.
What’s ahead for Scag as a company and its products over the next couple of years?
Our focus is on quality, product availability, performance and value. We have experienced tremendous growth over the past 10 yearsz and see more of the same in the future.
What are your goals in terms of Scag’s dealer network?
Dealer success is of the utmost importance to Scag. If we can provide top quality products and stand behind the dealer with top-notch sales, marketing and service support, we all win.
Of the 8 tractor manufacturers that have been scored every year from 2015-2018, TYM, JCB, Kioti and Branson have registered higher mean scores while LS Tractor, Versatile, McCormick and Mahindra have seen theirs drop. TYM has seen the largest gains in 2018 vs. 2015 (a 26.16% increase) and Mahindra has seen the largest decrease (–14.03%) in that time period.
Average scores for the 8 tractor manufacturers fell 0.14% in 2018 vs. 2014.
Using the Results
Taking the time to review the expansive amount of data gives dealers what they need to improve their individual relationships with manufacturers.
Doug Rinker of Winchester Equipment, Winchester, Va., says, “Surveys can give us a window into the soul of the industry. I view the results as a way to compare my experience with those of my fellow dealers. If we see that our viewpoint or experiences are markedly different than the survey results, then it gives us pause to find out why ours is different than our peers.”