Another day, another Land Rover victory in a JD Power survey. Assuming that you turn the chart upside down.
That's right, folks: JD Power recently released the results of its latest Customer Service Index study, which rates customer satisfaction with dealership service departments. Cadillac topped the charts, with Audi close behind, presumably because they finally ended the longstanding practice of giving out recently-traded 2004 Volkswagen Golfs as loaner cars. And Land Rover finished dead freakin' last.
No, I take that back. Land Rover didn't just finish last. They got destroyed. If you look at the survey, nearly all premium brands are clustered between 840 and 870 points out of a possible 1,000. The premium brand average was 855, and the worst non-Land Rover brands – Volvo, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche – are all between 840 and 848.
And then, at the very bottom, you have Land Rover, with just 805 points. That's awful. Put another way: Land Rover's score was further away from the second-worst brand, Volvo, than Volvo was from the overall winner. You have to try to do that poorly. It's almost like Land Rover North America held an employee meeting to brainstorm ideas about how to lose the JD Power survey. "I heard Audi dealers are finally selling their 2004 Volkswagen Golf loaner cars," one worker probably suggested. "Maybe we can buy those!"
To further emphasize how poorly Land Rover did here, we have to look at the "regular cars" portion of the study. That's because JD Power produced two studies: one for mainstream brands, and one for luxury brands. And in these two studies, every single luxury brand beat every single mainstream brand – except for Land Rover. In fact, Land Rover's score was so bad that it wouldn't have even been near the top of the mainstream brands study. It would've been somewhere in the middle, sandwiched between Chevrolet and Chrysler.
Yes, that's right: according to its own customers, the Land Rover dealership experience is roughly the same as the one you'll get at good ol' Billy Bob Chevrolet (Motto: If another dealer beats our prices, we'll beat his wife!), home of low low prices and brightly colored helium balloons.
In other words: Land Rover, who wants you to spend $135,000 for a Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography Portfolio Westminster Humidor Aardvark, will treat you the same as Chevrolet, who sells the Spark for $13,000, and Chrysler, who would finance a stray dog as long as it doesn't pee in the showroom.
The interesting thing is, this isn't Land Rover's first rodeo. (Of course, that's just a figure of speech. This isn't actually a rodeo. If it were, Land Rover would've broken down on the way.)
What I mean is, take a look at any JD Power survey created in the last decade and you'll see Land Rover duking it out for the bottom spot. And it doesn't have to be a service satisfaction survey. Have a look at an "Initial Quality Study," which measures problems in the first 90 days. Or a "Long Term Dependability Study," which examines issues during the third year of ownership. Land Rover is always down there, somewhere near the bottom, trying desperately to convince Mitsubishi that bad reliability isn't something you create, but rather something you earn as a wee lad growing up in England.
Now, I know what you're thinking, and that is: Why did you just spend 500 words telling me how bad Land Rover is? I already KNOW how bad Land Rover is! I had a friend with a Discovery II that rusted so badly it spread to his lower extremities!
Well, the reason I devoted so much time to all these studies is that I wanted to emphasize just how bad the situation has gotten. It's highly crucial to my next point, which is: Land Rover couldn't care less.
That's right, folks: I believe that Land Rover, noted manufacturer of vehicles that last approximately as long as the chicken pox, couldn't care less about its history of poor service, weak quality, and substandard reliability. I base this statement on an experience I had in January when I visited Land Rover Denver South, a dealership that is currently constructing a larger facility complete with flat-screen TVs, a new off-road course, and a dedicated parking area for up to six flatbed tow trucks.
Anyway: I walked into this dealership to check out the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, and a salesman approached me. "Do you want one?" he asked. I don't remember if I was looking at the Range Rover or the Sport. "I can get you one in six months."
That's right, folks: despite the fact that Land Rover consistently finishes last in every single quality survey, and dependability study, and satisfaction index, and air suspension longevity measure, their vehicles still have waiting lists. In fact, the full-size Range Rover is still on a waiting list even though it's been on sale for a year and a half.
And it's not just because the products are newly redesigned. Back when I worked at Porsche, we were consistently mystified at how the brand-new Cayenne would be outsold every single month by the last-generation Range Rover Sport, even though the Cayenne was sleek and modern and exciting and the Range Rover Sport looked like a relic from Nelly's "Country Grammar" music video.
My point here is that Land Rover doesn't care about JD Power scores because it doesn't need to care. They could finish last in every single reasonable measure of reliability and quality – in fact, they do – and people would still line up for months to pay full sticker. So if you're Land Rover, why would you spend the money to overhaul the factory and improve the quality?
You wouldn't. You'd spend the money somewhere else. Maybe you could get the dealers to put in eight parking spaces for flatbed tow trucks. Or you could get hubcaps for those Volkswagen Golf loaner cars. Two solid ideas that would really bring up the satisfaction score.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.