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Survey: Saturn dealers No. 1

DETROIT, July 10 (UPI) -- Mercedes, Lexus, Infinity -- car brands that signify luxury and customer service -- have been outdone by Saturn dealers, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

The 2002 Customer Service Index released Tuesday said Saturn is the first non-luxury nameplate to top rank No. 1 with customers in dealer service since 1986. Saturn scored highest in performance on routine maintenance, pleasing two-thirds of owners compared to an industry average of 55 percent.

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"The overall strength of Saturn's customer satisfaction is a result of 'white glove' treatment, with easy service appointments, friendly interaction with service personnel and a strong emphasis on consideration for the timely treatment of customers," said John Harbicht, director of service/dealer satisfaction at J.D. Power.

The company's survey found 77 percent Saturn owners used their dealer for routine service and repairs, compared to 64 percent of other non-luxury car owners.

"Saturn owners are intensely loyal to their dealers," Harbicht said.

Nissan's Infinity division was second in dealer service and Lexus, Toyota's luxury division, fell to third in the survey after ranking No. 1 for the past five years.

"Although Lexus is not the top-ranked brand this year, its service quality evaluations and the ability to fix vehicles right the first time continue to be hallmarks of Lexus service," Harbicht said.

J.D. Power said overall quality improvement in vehicles meant fewer repairs, with 55 percent of owners using dealers for regular maintenance and 45 percent for repairs.

Eighty-five percent of customers reported repairs were done correctly on the first visit to a dealer, compared to 66 percent in 1990. Vehicle recalls declined to 18 percent, down from 21 percent in 2001.

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