Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. of Prineville, Ore., has earned J.D. Power and Associates' top tire retailer satisfaction rating for the fourth consecutive year, being rated by customers as delivering service ``substantially above expectations.''
At the same time, the Westlake Village-based research firm said its latest study shows few vehicles owners use the Internet to buy tires, opting instead to talk to a salesperson about their tire needs.
More than a quarter of Les Schwab Tire's customers rated their experience at the dealership substantially above expectations, compared with only 15 percent for all tire buyers, according to Powers' 2003 Replacement Tire Buyer Behavior and Satisfaction Survey. Dealerships were ranked based on four factors: retailer service, personnel, facility and product offering.
``Les Schwab continues to dominate in fulfilling and exceeding customer expectations and enjoys a commanding 44 index-point lead over its nearest competitor,'' said Jeff Zupancic, director of the tire practice at J.D. Power.
Les Schwab operates 365 company-owned and affiliated outlets in seven Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain states. The company's motto is, ``We guarantee our service like we guarantee our tires.''
Discount Tire Co. of Scottsdale, Ariz., and TBC Corp.'s Big O Tires franchisee network were tied for second, with three other retailers-Goodyear Auto Centers, National Tire & Battery and Price Club/Costco-also above the retailer average, J.D. Power said.
Retailers ranking below the average included Sam's Club, Firestone Car Care Centers, Sears Auto Centers, Wal-Mart, Tires Plus and Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack, Power said.
Retailers mentioned in the survey, but not rated due to insufficient sample size, included: Belle Tire; BJ's Wholesale Club; Dunn Tire; Quality Farm & Fleet; Ford dealerships; Just Tires; Tire Kingdom; and Town Fair Tire Center.
The 2003 J.D. Power study is based on responses from about 7,900 vehicle owners in the U.S. who had bought replacement tires for their vehicles shortly before the survey was conducted.
Regarding the Web, the satisfaction study found that more than 60 percent of tire buyers access the Internet, but only 16 percent of them use it when they need to buy tires.
``The desire to discuss their needs with a tire salesperson and their intentions to buy from the same retailer are key reasons tire buyers do not use the Internet as a tire shopping tool today,'' Mr. Zupancic said.
The study also measured customers' tire satisfaction among car/compact van and light truck owners. The Michelin brand again ranked highest in both product categories, followed by Toyo in car/compact van and BFGoodrich in light truck.