Toyota, Lexus and Buick dealers place first in a three-way tie for delivering the best customer experience in the auto industry.

That’s according to an annual report by the Temkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in customer service.

The three winning auto brands earned a 74% in the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings.

They collectively placed 59th overall out of 268 companies across 19 industries including banking, air transportation and Internet services. The study surveyed 10,000 consumers.

It is Toyota’s second straight year at the top of the automotive category. It is the first time for Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, and Buick, a General Motors division.

At the other end, Chrysler dealers went from an “OK” rating in 2013 to “poor” this year, finishing in the basement.

Kia and Dodge also declined, both hitting near-bottom of the auto-industry rankings for the third year in a row.

“Toyota, Buick, and Lexus dealers are leading the industry-wide effort to become more customer-centric,” says Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group.

It wasn’t always that way. In past years, Toyota dealers scored below average on satisfaction surveys, even while selling lots of cars.

To combat the poor satisfaction scores, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. launched a nationwide effort to make its dealerships more customer-friendly.

Consumers showed greater loyalty to Toyota’s products (65%) than its dealerships (50%), according to corporate data. The difference was “too great to ignore,” a Toyota executive said after the automaker launched the training program to boost dealership satisfaction.

In the latest Temkin rating, now in its fourth year, Subaru places a close second (73%) followed by Hyundai (70%), Ford (68%), Honda (67%), Chevrolet (67%), Mercedes-Benz (67%), BMW (65%), Audi (64%), Cadillac (64%), Nissan (63%), Mazda (62%), Volkswagen (61%), GM (61%), Jeep (61%), Kia (57%), Dodge (55%), and Chrysler (50%).

Most improved honors go to Hyundai (+6 points), BMW (+5 points), Nissan (+4 points) and Toyota (+3 points).

Chrysler (-10 points), Dodge (-5 points), and Kia (-1 point) post the only automotive retailing declines from 2013 to 2014.

Temkin asked consumers to evaluate their experiences across three dimensions:

  • Functional. “Can you do what you want to do?”
  • Accessible. “How easy is it to work with the company?”
  • Emotional. “How do you feel about the interactions?”

Temkin then averaged the three. A score of 70% or above is considered good and 80% or above is deemed as excellent.

The good news for the auto industry is that none of the brands rank “very poor.” However, some wireless carriers, hotels, health plans and TV-service providers did.  

Bruce Temkin describes himself as “a customer-experience transformist” and “a fanatical student of business.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com