The 2019 Equipment Dealers Assn. (EDA)’s Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey shows OPE manufacturers again ranking highest of all the manufacturing categories. LS Tractor and Scag Power Equipment are also repeat recipients of the top recognition, the Dealer’s Choice award, for tractor and OPE manufacturers, respectively. (See the chart, “2019 EDA Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey” for more ratings.)
OPE manufacturers scored only slightly higher than last year: 5.63 vs. 5.62 (ratings were made on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being extremely dissatisfied and 7 being extremely satisfied). However, tractor manufacturers’ rating increased to 4.90 from 4.84. Shortlines’ dropped to 5.50 from 5.61 while full-line manufacturers increased to 4.90 from 4.86. The ratings for all manufacturers dropped slightly to 5.40 this year vs. 5.41 last year. (Read more in the “Ratings Trends” chart.)
When reviewing the ratings of all categories for each company, 83% of the 59 manufacturer brands represented in the survey averaged a score of 5 or higher, compared to 82% in 2018, according to EDA. In 2018 and again this year, only 5% had an average rating of 6 or higher.
“This is a customer satisfaction survey with the customer being the dealer. We continue to hear from dealers that they should be considered the manufacturers’ primary customers,” explains Joe Dykes, EDA’s vice president of industry relations.
There were 2,516 individual dealer contacts who participated in the survey, up 13% from the 2,224 who participated last year. On average, each respondent rated 4 manufacturers. Dealer responses were received from all 50 U.S. states, 10 Canadian provinces plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. About 70% of the respondents were owners or managers. A manufacturer needs to reach a certain level of dealer responses to be included in the survey rankings.
Claas earned the full-line manufacturer Dealer’s Choice award and Vermeer earned the shortline manufacturer Dealer’s Choice award.
Using the Survey
This year, the Equipment Dealers Assn.’s (EDA) Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey had its highest participation level yet. There were 2,516 individual dealer contacts who participated in the survey, up 13% from the 2,224 who participated last year.
The survey is valuable to manufacturers, but Joe Dykes, EDA’s vice president of industry relations, says most likely 80% of dealers don’t pay it any attention. “If they’re happy with their company or if they’re not interested in expanding the line, it may not be of interest. But, dealers should be aware of the survey and it can be a resource for them,” he says.
Gold level award recipients included Bourgault, Branson, Bush Hog, ECHO, Exmark, Ferris, Grasshopper, Highline Mfg., John Deere, KIOTI, Landoll, Shindaiwa, STIHL, Toro Co. and Walker Mfg.
Leading the Results
LS Tractor and Scag earned Dealer’s Choice awards for tractor and OPE manufacturers, respectively. That makes 5 years in a row that LS Tractor has earned the top recognition. Scag has received Dealer’s Choice recognition 4 times, including the last 3 consecutive years.
LS Tractor outperformed 8 other tractor manufacturers in 6 of the 12 categories measured. They ranked second behind Branson for product technical support, return privileges, communications with management, warranty procedures and warranty payments. They placed second behind KIOTI for marketing and advertising support.
Looking specifically at overall customer satisfaction, LS Tractor scored 6.09, while the average rating for tractor manufacturers was 5.03 and the average for all manufacturers was 5.56. In the tractor category, KIOTI ranked second for overall satisfaction. Overall satisfaction is a stand-alone rating category, meaning it is not compiled from the other 11 rated categories.
Among the 12 categories, LS Tractor had both the largest increase in its rating for parts availability and the largest decrease in its rating for warranty payments compared with last year. (Read more in the sidebar, “4 Core Pillars of LS Tractor’s Success”.)
Scag, which topped the list of 23 OPE manufacturers, outperformed its competitors in 5 of the 12 categories measured: product technical support, warranty procedures, warranty payments, marketing & advertising support and manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns. However, they ranked second behind Walker Mfg. in overall satisfaction, product availability, product quality, return privileges and communications with management. They ranked second behind Grasshopper for parts availability and parts quality.
Looking only at overall customer satisfaction, Scag scored 6.35, compared to Walker’s 6.41. The average for OPE manufacturers was 5.80 and 5.56 for all manufacturers. (See which brands were at the top and bottom of each category this year and over time in the 2019 EDA Survey Results Gallery.)
Among the 12 categories, Scag had the largest increase in its rating for manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns compared to 2018. It also had the largest decrease in its rating for return privileges.
Scag’s President, Chris Frame, says the company’s distributors are a key contributor to its ranking. “They are the faces of Scag to dealers, providing the day-to-day sales, marketing and service support that dealers need. Scag’s pattern of high marks in the survey each year is largely due to the great work of these distributors,” Frame says. (Read more in the sidebar, “Scag Scores 4th Dealer’s Choice Award”.)
Zeroing in on the top 3 and bottom 3 scores for tractor manufacturers in the overall satisfaction category, LS Tractor rated highest at 6.09, an increase from last year. KIOTI ranked second, and its score of 6.01 is also up this year. Branson ranked third at 5.70, decreasing in its ratings. The average score for tractor manufacturers is 5.03 for overall satisfaction.
JCB scored the lowest at 4.16, which is down from last year. Damien Mills, a spokesperson for JCB, says, “We’re surprised by the survey results, but we value all the feedback we get from our dealers. I’m pleased to share that we’re working more closely with our dealer network than ever before. Over the past several months we’ve worked together to implement a number of new programs to help our dealers grow their business and deliver more JCB machines to their customers.”
LS Tractor’s winning streak continues. The company has earned its fifth straight Dealer’s Choice award and outperformed other tractor manufacturers in 6 of the 12 categories measured in the 2019 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey. In the following discussion, Mike Blount, president of LS Tractor, explains what’s behind the company’s perennial success and initiatives underway to remain at the top.
RLD: It’s an accomplishment to claim the Dealer’s Choice award once, much less 5 times. What would you say to those who might say it has to be a fluke?
Mike Blount: It’s rewarding to know that our LS dealers rank us as high as they do compared to dealers of other manufacturers. It’s confirmation that we’re doing things right and have a good focus. The fact that LS Tractor has been awarded Dealer’s Choice 5 times in a row rules out any notion that it’s a fluke.
When I took over, I sat down with our team to talk about values and how those values — our core pillars — govern our relationships and our dealers’ relationships with customers. We crystallized what those core pillars are: respect, integrity, teamwork and excellence. This is the DNA of the LS team.
The team didn’t just identify those values, but that’s the way they behave. It’s part of the culture that makes LS Tractor unique and different. We’re always delighted to be recognized, but we strive for that and expect it now. To perform well in those categories, you also need good disciplined processes in place.
RLD: Which categories in particular do you think are most important?
Blount: To have a sustainable brand in this industry long-term, aftermarket is really important. We’ve done a lot of work in the parts department in the last 12 months, such as increasing our parts storage capacity by 4 times to accommodate more inventory. We’ve increased staffing as well. Dealers noticed these changes and our score improved in that area.
RLD: LS Tractor’s rating did decline in the warranty payments category and shows a 3-year decline in overall satisfaction. Why do you think that is?
Blount: We’ve had significant growth over the last 10 years, which means our tractor population has increased. Over that time, we haven’t really increased our staffing for warranties. We’ve actually struggled to find the right personnel for that area – so we were behind in getting payments processed. We’ve found the right staff now and will be introducing a new warranty system soon. I expect to be rated a lot higher in that area next year.
We’re watching the area of overall satisfaction and other categories, like warranty, that might contribute to that score to determine how we might improve. In other categories, like parts quality and parts availability, we’ve improved quite a bit.
I imagine that our competitors are probably stepping up their game a bit and that’s good — good for us and good for the customer.
RLD: What about next year and if LS Tractor doesn’t earn Dealer’s Choice again?
Blount: If we happen to be No. 2 or No. 3, we will do the same things we do now, which is to look at the way we are performing in certain areas and focus on improving the process. I’m not sure that we’ll get that concerned about it. It’s good to have the overall number, but we look at specific underlying processes that really govern the higher-level number. That’s what’s more important.
We recently launched a survey to measure how satisfied customers are with products and services of LS Tractor and our dealers. That survey will probably be as important as the EDA survey. We’re also continuing to look for ways to promote brand awareness and have recently formed a relationship with JR Motorsports, which will help tremendously. That partnership is really exciting for a young, growing company like ours.
McCormick ranked above JCB at 4.18, an increase from last year. Mahindra Ag North America ranked above both JCB and McCormick at 4.24, but its score decreased from last year. (Read more about what’s happening at Mahindra in the sidebar, “Dealers Define Agenda for Mahindra Ag North America”.)
Survey Methodology Statistics
- The Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey was distributed to dealership contacts on Feb. 7, 2019 and remained active until March 15, 2019. To assist in distribution, 28 manufacturers provided lists of their U.S. and Canadian dealer networks. Duplicate email addresses were removed via a multi-step process.
- On average, the survey was completed in less than 10 minutes.
- Dealer responses were collected anonymously by a third-party research firm. There were 2,516 individual dealer contacts who participated in the survey, up 13% from 2,224 last year. Dealer responses were received from all 50 U.S. states, 10 Canadian provinces plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Manufacturers received 9,087 individual dealer ratings, up from last year’s 8,800. Each respondent rated an average of 4 manufacturers.
- Eighty-seven percent of the respondents were either the dealer principal/owner, general manager or store/branch manager. Ten percent of respondents were department managers and 3% classified as “Other.”
- Eighty-three percent of the manufacturers averaged a score of 5 or higher, compared to 82% in 2018. This year, as in 2018, only 5% had an average rating of 6 or higher. The average for all manufacturers was 5.40, compared to 5.41 in 2018.
In terms of overall satisfaction for OPE manufacturers, Walker topped the list for overall satisfaction with a score of 6.41, which is up from last year. Scag (the Dealer’s Choice recipient) ranked second at 6.35, an increase from a year ago. Grasshopper ranked third at 6.17, also increasing from 2018. The average is 5.80.
Among the 23 OPE manufacturers rated, Snapper scored lowest for overall satisfaction at 5.0. However, Snapper’s rating has increased since 2018. Husqvarna ranked above Snapper at 5.09, also up from last year. Briggs & Stratton ranked above Snapper and Husqvarna with a score of 5.24, decreasing from last year.
Ranking Product Quality
When analyzing scores in the operational categories, 92% of dealers rank product quality as “very important.” (For more information about categories’ rankings, see the chart, “Dealer Ranking of Rating Category Importance”.) For tractor manufacturers, Yanmar topped the list for product quality, followed by LS Tractor and KIOTI. However, compared with 2018, Yanmar decreased in its rating, while LS Tractor and KIOTI both increased.
Chris Frame is president of Scag Power Equipment.
Scag Power Equipment has received Dealer’s Choice recognition 4 times, including the last 3 years running. They outperformed 23 other OPE manufacturers in 5 of the 12 categories measured (product technical support, warranty procedures, warranty payments, marketing & advertising support and manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns).
Chris Frame, Scag’s president, shares what’s behind the top ratings.
On new initiatives: While I can’t discuss specifics, we have increased our focus on improving the overall “Scag experience” for our distributors, dealers and end-users. Whether it’s changes to programs or the products themselves, we’re continually looking and listening for ways to improve. We’re also actively working to strategically address gaps in dealer coverage in certain markets across the country to better serve the end-users who are yearning to join Scag Nation.
On industry trends affecting Scag: We do certainly monitor countless trends throughout the industry, but as an industry leader, we also actively focus on setting the trends and benchmarks that the industry will chase in the coming years.
On maintaining high ratings: Our core beliefs revolve around doing what is right for our employees, distributors, dealers and end-users. I think the Dealer’s Choice Award recognition is largely a reflection of that. Again, we’re continually looking and listening for ways to improve. I believe our dealers take notice that we’re listening and are making improvements where we can.
We obviously can’t implement every suggestion that comes our way. However, our team works closely with our distribution network to determine the areas that would benefit most from a well-prepared plan of action. Our top-notch group of regional distributors is also certainly a key ingredient in Scag’s continued success. We have the very best distributors in the industry. They are the faces of Scag to dealers and provide the day-to-day sales, marketing and service support the dealers need. Scag’s pattern of high marks in the EDA Dealer Survey each year is, in large part, due to the great work of these distributors.
On categories with increasing ratings: The value of our ongoing efforts seem to be validated by increases in key ratings such as overall satisfaction and manufacturer response to dealer needs.”
JCB had the largest decrease in its product quality rating compared with 2018 and Versatile had the largest increase on its rating.
For OPE manufacturers, Walker led the survey for product quality, followed by Scag and Grasshopper. Ferris had the largest decrease in its product quality rating compared with 2018 and Exmark had the largest increase.
Analyzing 3-Year Trends
Let’s analyze some 3-year trends to get another view of how tractor and OPE manufacturers are tracking. Looking at product quality (the category dealers rank as most important) KIOTI and TYM are the only tractor manufacturers that have consistently trended upward since 2017.
Those tractor manufacturers that have trended consistently downward for 3 years are JCB and Mahindra.
Viren Popli is president and CEO of Mahindra Ag North America.
Dealers are indicating that Mahindra Ag North America is not providing what they need in several key areas, according to the 2019 Equipment Dealers Assn.’s Dealer Manufacturer Relations survey. Viren Popli, who was named president and CEO last October, says the ratings were not a surprise, especially after meeting with dealers across the country in the early days of his leadership. “I expected the scores because many of those issues were brought up in the various meetings I had. In a sense, they defined the agenda I set for myself as to what we need to do, what we need to fix and what we need to retain,” Popli says.
For instance, Mahindra received relatively lower ratings in such categories as overall dealer satisfaction, product quality and communications with management.
“Overall satisfaction is always a factor of many experiences, including the changes we’ve had in leadership. For product quality, I think it’s just that dealers are holding us to a higher standard because we are the world’s No. 1 selling tractor company. We are hearing what you are saying and trying to be even more aggressive on product quality,” Popli explains.
He says there are two perspectives regarding product quality — actual and perceived — and perceived attitudes toward quality are something they need to improve, especially when entering new product segments.
Popli has implemented new initiatives to better communicate with dealers, such as a dealer-wide video conference call every 45 days. Popli says the most important initiative that has been recently implemented is the business assistance center. The center provides a single point of access for dealers across all the company’s departments.
Popli comments on the impact of these recent changes and the company’s goal for next year’s survey. “My No. 1 issue was to continue driving retail momentum and there has been a positive result in a market share increase in May, which is one of the toughest months of the year.
“We want to be among the top 5 in next year’s survey and higher as we move forward,” Popli says.
The company plans to expand beyond its current network of 520 dealers, but expansion is not necessarily targeted to a specific region. Popli says Mahindra’s market share is about 9% across the U.S., but its dealers only cover about half of the country.
Leading the Company
Popli says he understands dealers because his father owned a consumer goods dealership in India. “I know the way a business works and that empathy exists for me,” he says.
Popli explains his leadership style: “I recognize the fact that Mahindra cannot be successful and profitable without its dealers being successful and profitable. The dealer represents our brand and, at the same time, they are a partner of Mahindra’s. It has to be a bi-directional partnership.”
In describing how he interfaces with his team, Popli says, “I want to create an organization that is agile, innovative, value-driven and professional.”
Mahindra is celebrating 25 years in North America and is running a related marketing promotion. “You’ll be seeing us doing a lot more in the market, and not just with Mahindra Agriculture, but with the Mahindra Group.”
In terms of overall satisfaction, KIOTI is the only tractor manufacturer for which ratings have increased in the last 3 years. Branson, JCB, LS Tractor and Mahindra have all trended downward since 2017 in overall satisfaction.
The OPE manufacturers that have trended upward in product quality since 2017 are Husqvarna, Snapper and Toro. The OPE manufacturers that are trending downward in product quality since 2017 are Briggs & Stratton, Honda and STIHL.
In terms of overall satisfaction, the survey ratings for Ariens, Husqvarna, Kawasaki and Walker have increased each of the last 3 years. Those OPE manufacturers trending downward for overall satisfaction include ECHO, Honda, STIHL and Toro.
Rating the Industry
An even higher level view of the Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey shows all manufacturers are rated highest in the area of parts quality and lowest in the area of manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns.
The survey is valuable to both manufacturers and dealers, but according to Dykes, it is likely that some dealers don’t pay much attention to the results of the survey.
“If they’re happy with their company or if they’re not interested in expanding their product line mix, it may not be of interest. But, dealers should be aware of the survey — it can be a resource for them,” he says.
Dealers can use the survey as a starting point for better communication, to promote the performance of the lines they carry or to evaluate possible new lines. They can then integrate that data with customer feedback to make sound decisions.
“I listen to customers. Those are the real stories. When I looked for an implement supplier, I asked my customers what they want,” says Doug Vahrenberg of Vahrenberg Implement in Higginsville, Mo.