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The Equipment Dealers Assn. (EDA) has released the results of its annual Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey to equipment dealers. The survey, which enables equipment dealers throughout North America to rate the manufacturer lines they carry in key operational categories, was open from February 13 through March 18, 2020.

EDA's survey allows dealers to rate up to 7 manufacturers they carry and collects data on their experience in 11 categories including product quality, availability and technical support; parts availability, quality and return policy; communication, warranty, marketing/advertising support and a separate rating for overall satisfaction. Respondents could rate manufacturers on a scale from 1-7, where 1 is "extremely dissatisfied" and 7 is "extremely satisfied."

The 2020 survey contains a list of 61 manufacturers that received the minimum number of dealer ratings required to be included in the report, including full-line manufacturers, tractor manufacturers, shortline manufacturers and outdoor power equipment (OPE) manufacturers. This article focuses on the performance of the shortline manufacturers included in the report.

This year's survey received 9,671 individual manufacturer ratings (a 6.4% increase from the 2019 survey) from 2,659 dealers (a 5.6% increase), gathering responses from all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces. This means, on average, each dealer rated 3.64 manufacturer lines that they carried. Broken down by occupation, 63% of respondents were dealer-principals, 12% were general managers, 6% were branch/store managers, 6% were sales managers, 5% were parts managers, 4% were service managers and 4% were listed as "other." It was noted that the "other" category can contain several other positions not included in the survey options, such as COO or CFO.

It was also noted that the survey results were only representative of a snapshot in early 2020, with the potential for results to "... change relatively quickly due to a number of external factors or situations." It can also be difficult to evaluate manufacturers in different segments against one another. There are different expectations and resources for different types of equipment.

Joe Dykes, vice president of industry relations at EDA, highlights the multiple ways dealers can find value in the aggregated results of the survey.

"The number one incentive for dealers to participate in the study is knowing how their manufacturers are stacking up against the competition," he says. "And down the line, if they're considering adding a manufacturer to their dealership, these ratings are a good component to use in making that decision.

"Another possible use of the survey is for dealers to compare the results to what they hear in their dealer meetings. A lot of times, manufacturers will say they realize where they're running a little short and explain what they're doing to solve problems in particular areas. Dealers can measure their manufacturer's improvements in certain categories over a couple years with the surveys and see if the manufacturer's efforts are really working."

Aggregated results are also useful to the manufacturers that participate in the study by providing their dealer distribution lists for EDA to send questionnaires to. The full report says manufacturers may use the report to "... promote their performance to their dealer network and end-users. They have also used the results as a means to support change and improvements within their organizations."

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For the 5th year in a row, OPE manufacturers as a group were rated the highest (5.54) compared to the other manufacturer groups and also scored higher than the combined average for all manufacturers (5.32). While the OPE segment stood out from the other manufacturers, the average score did decline from 5.63 in 2019, which was consistent with all categories this year. The average score for all manufactures was down from 5.40 last year.

Scag received the Dealers Choice Award and had the highest average mean score at 6.19. Gold Level Awards also were given to Echo, Exmark, Grasshopper, Shindaiwa, Stihl, Walker and Wright Manufacturing. Scag's average mean was 6.19, above the OPE average of 6.69 as well as the all manufacturers average of 5.50. When looking at all 12 categories dealers could rank the manufacturers, Scag had the top score in the OPE group in all but one category - warranty procedures. Shindaiwa took the top spot for warranty procedures with a 6.01, followed by Scag at 5.95. Husqvarna had the lowest average mean score at 4.72.

Tractor Manufacturers

Altogether, the tractor manufacturers had an average mean score of 4.89 in 2020, down slightly from a score of 4.90 last year. Branson Tractors took the Dealers Choice Award, with Gold Level awards going to LS Tractor and Yanmar.

Branson had the highest average mean score of the tractor manufacturers for 2020 at 5.80, up slightly from 5.70 in 2019. The lowest average mean score went to Mahindra at 3.94, down from 4.19 in 2019.

Overall, the top scores in each of the 12 categories dealers ranked the manufacturers were more evenly distributed than in the other manufacturer categories. Branson Tractor took top ratings in 6 of the 12 categories - overall satisfaction (5.92), parts availability (6.11), return privileges (6.29), communications with management (5.74), warranty procedures (5.68) and warranty payments (5.74). LS Tractor, which had received the Dealers Choice Award for 5 years in a row, earned top ratings in product availability (6.25). Yanmar rated highest in 4 categories, which include product quality (6.57), parts quality (6.39) and manufacturer response to dealer needs/concerns (5.37) and product technical support (5.74). Kioti ranked first in marketing & advertising support with a score of 5.41.