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Independents give better repair service, Consumer Reports survey says

May 4, 2009 |  3:00 pm

Mechanic-500

When it comes to service and repairs, car owners surveyed by Consumer Reports said they preferred taking their cars to independent repair shops rather than dealerships.

Consumer Reports, the consumer affairs magazine and website published by the Consumers Union, surveyed owners of 349,000 vehicles among its subscriber base.

When it came to routine maintenance, 84% of respondents reported being “very satisfied” with the service that they received at independent repair shops, compared with only 77% satisfaction at dealerships. The difference was more pronounced where repair work was involved, with 75% giving the highest rating to independent shops versus 57% for dealerships.

“In many cases, we heard that independent shops were more thorough and consumers were more satisfied with repairs they made, there was less of a difference in routine service,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.

"The good news is consumers have choices when it comes to auto repair and maintenance," said a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group based in McLean, Va. that represents the nation’s new car and truck dealers.

"Today’s vehicles are becoming increasingly complex . . . "New car dealers invest heavily in training, service equipment and diagnostic tools."

Among individual brands, domestic dealerships fared quite well, with Buick, Saturn, Mercury, Cadillac and Lincoln all landing in the top 10 (Lexus was No. 1). At the bottom of the ranking were Mazda, Nissan, Jeep, Suzuki and — in last place — Volkswagen.

The full results of the survey will be in the June issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands Tuesday, and at www.consumerreports.org.

-- Martin Zimmerman

Photo: John Kalleen of Accurate Autoworks in Pasedena. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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