Jack Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Auto Malls was presented with an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) registration certificate Feb. 1 at the National Automobile Dealers Association Convention in Las Vegas. The achievement by Fitzgerald Auto Malls was the first-ever ISO 9001:2000 registration of a multi-location dealer group in auto retail history.

During the presentation, Fitzgerald discussed the ISO registration process, which he said was achieved through the development of a Process-Based Management system called the "Fitzgerald Quality System." The quality system certified as eligible for ISO registration provides for the processing of customer feedback in real time, allowing Fitzgerald Auto Malls' management to take immediate action to modify operations.

Fitzgerald proposed the ISO certified Process-Based Management system's customer survey process as a viable alternative to the manufacturers' current customer satisfaction index (CSI) programs, which he said are considered problematic by dealers.

"This CSI thing has gotten way out of hand," Fitzgerald said at the Feb. 1 press conference where the registration was announced. "The manufacturers don't know who is taking care of customers and who isn't. They haven't got a clue -- at least not the ones I have franchises with, and I have 35 franchises."

Fitzgerald said that unless and until irregularities and inaccuracies in the manufacturers' current method of measuring CSI are addressed, "I don't care if they ever give my Five-Star Dealer award back again."

Agreeing was Howard E. Butz, Jr., of Towson University, whose organization consulted with Fitzgerald Auto Malls during the process of ISO registration. "CSI measurements are often misleading," Butz said. "Compounding the problem is the fact that CSI scores are easily manipulated." Butz said that some dealerships have gone so far as to submit bogus CSI surveys, completed by dealership personnel, to the manufacturers without even including customers in the process.

The Fitzgerald Quality System was audited and certified by Smithers Quality Assessments Inc. (SQA), an independent accredited registrar and member of the Independcent Association of Accredited Registrars. "Customer satisfaction is the key to long-term survival," said John Sedlak, vice president and chief operating officer of SQA. "Jack Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald Auto Malls, has demonstrated his commitment to customer satisfaction by developing a management system that conforms to all the requirements of ISO 9001:2000, including a proactive process for measuring customer satisfaction."

About Fitzgerald Auto Malls

Fitzgerald Auto Malls (www.fitzmalls.com), headquartered in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., has 12 locations with 35 franchises in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Florida representing 20 auto manufacturers.

Jack Fitzgerald started Fitzgerald Auto Malls

in 1966 with a single dealership. He is the recipient of the Golden Gear Award, the All Star Dealer Award and the USA Today and NADA Innovative Dealer Award.