• Aug 18, 2009
2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon – Click above for high-res image gallery

Index for automakers from the University of Michigan is being released today, and sitting at the very top are Cadillac and Lexus in a two-way tie for first place. The study continues its Detroit lovefest by giving the third spot to a tie-up of Lincoln-Mercury, Buick and Honda. And that moves us into spot No. 7, where Toyota shows up in a tie with Volkswagen.

Great news for American automakers? Great fodder for the marketing departments at least. Automotive News (sub. req.) quotes Claes Fornell, the director of the MSU's National Quality Research Center as saying the great leap in customer satisfaction is, oddly enough, at least partially due to a huge drop in sales. Fornell says that the few people buying American cars are hardcore American car drivers, and are more likely to respond as satisfied to a survey.

The good news, Fornell says, is that a smaller, more devoted group of buyers is more likely to be repeat buyers. In a New York Times story, Fornell says, "In most cases that's not a good thing, to increase the satisfaction of their customers by losing them. But in Detroit's case, it's probably not that bad. It leaves them with a smaller, more satisfied customer base that they might be able to manage better and build from."

In the study, Volkswagen was the most improved, bettering its placement by 6.2.

A here and should be updated sometime today with 2009 numbers.



[Sources: Automotive News and The New York Times]


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  • 32 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      So may surveys. JP Power,CR,TrueDelta, and the Michigan University survey.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The headline start out positive, but there's the usual negative spin:

      "Fornell says that the few people buying American cars are hardcore American car drivers"

      Yeah, only "few" people buy American cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The media is just pathetic, couldn't this be true for all car sales last year? They all dropped significantly it's not like the domestics lost half their customers and the imports gained them all. Anything to take a dig at the domestics I guess.

        The truth is the slow sales rate gives a dealer more time to spend with the customer, ensuring a happier customer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think you misunderstand. He's not saying few people buy american cars, a lot of people do. But he's saying that so many do because they aren't interested in the cars they drive...

        Not that I agree, but that's what I got out of that statement.

        BTW, love the new CTS Sportwagon, but that D pillar is too thick. more glass please.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Gary, you should have quoted the rest of the sentence. It gets your point across better.

        These idiots are effectively saying that people who buy American cars don't know any better and will erroneously mark up American cars.

        Wow. Just Wow.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Last I checked, GM still sold more automobiles in the US than Toyota.
        • 5 Years Ago
        40% fewer than last year. So sure, fewer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Uh, GM might sell more vehicles but you should check those Cadillac sales figures. For that matter check how badly Cadillacs depreciate and it becomes fairly obvious that only someone who already really, really, really, loves Cadillacs would be willing to pay extra to drive it over other luxury brands (people who buy new luxury cars often sell them after a couple of years so the depreciation difference is fairly significant).

        Anyways if a brand has continually plummeting sales and yet increasing customer satisfaction percentages it's fair to assume that the people willing to buy any brand likely did. They need to fix that depreciation is what they need to do because Caddy's depreciate mindblowingly badly.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Decades of bad designs, shoddy quality, and deplorable owner relations sparked a Detroit-3 customer revolt. Notwithstanding claims of world class quality every long-term reliability, durability and warranty claim survey confirms domestic vehicles are markedly inferior to class leading competitors. Ten years of satisfactory repair indexes are needed to restore consumer confidence. An honest 10-year factory warranty would make it go away, but there isn't one.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "...every long-term reliability, durability and warranty claim survey confirms domestic vehicles are markedly inferior to class leading competitors. "

        Thanks for spewing the common anti-Detroit meme. Good work. Its not true, but a common held beleif.

        Many American cars have done very well on long-term durablity studies, often better than the short term studies, even over the last 10 years.
        • 5 Years Ago
        We're breaking new ground in business economics and merchandixing theory here! The bottom line is excellent products and excessive numbers of people wanting to buy them at profitable prices rocketed GM into bankruptcy and needing government bailouts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ westbound

        its funny that JD Power says the exact opposite saying that buick is basically the most dependable car in the world....but im sure your more reliable source than they are.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Notwithstanding claims of world class quality every long-term reliability, durability and warranty claim survey confirms domestic vehicles are markedly inferior to class leading competitors.

        Sorry, but your comment is absolute BS. You simply don't have a clue as to what your talking about. Many American brands, Buick for one example, have ranked at or near the top of the ratings lists for decades. Check out Consumer Report's customer-subscriber rankings for something as regularly derided as the Lincoln Town Car. It gets a nearly perfect score year after year.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ westbound

        Again your completely uneducated on the subject (as many are) Toyota and honda, among others are begging for their own government bailouts now, and received money before GM ever got any. Do we hear about it?...NO because they are not asking our governments for cash, they are asking theirs. Nobody is saying GM hasn't made mistakes in the past, but the arguments most people make now are unfounded.
        • 5 Years Ago
        mortonb11 - How foolish of you to allow the facts to cloud your judgement. ;-)
      • 5 Years Ago
      While the big three are largely responsible for producing sub-standard cars in the past. They have, in recent years made great leaps in quality and durablility, particularly in power trains, and have been ahead as far as engine controls for years,but the media continues to ignore such strides and ignore increasing problems with the import brands. When is the last time you saw an article about the prevailing engine problems with BMW or the transmission woes in v6 powered hondas. Sludging problems with many because of excessive oil change intervals for driving conditions. Last year I read a long term wrap-up in automobile magazine on 3 BMWs a 3, 5, and a 7 series. All of which needed engine work of some kind and while they mentioned it there was no speculation of 'is this a problem' like there would have been if it were a domestic brand. The media bears a portion of responsibility for the poor sales of domestic brands.
        • 5 Years Ago
        When the foreign brands came to the U.S "made in Japan" had a negative meaning and you are correct the media favored the domestic brands. That wasn't fair either. For the last 15-20 years or more it has become the other way around. Like this survey, whether intentional or not, attempt to explain the perception of quality in a 'they don't know any better' way. Manufacturers like Hyundai (and I own one) are attractive from a value perspective. What they offer from a stand point of product quality/dependability are a good value. these things aside. The media always finds something, even if it is credible, to make the domestic brands undesirable while minimize flaws, sometimes major ones in foreign brands, especially european.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You missed the point completely. He gave multiple cases where Honda and such have made cars that are not reliable. Recently. And the "want to buy" thing is ridiculous. Toyota and Honda were hammered as badly as any other company by the high gas prices and the downturn.

        The reporting still isn't even between domestics and imports. I'm not sure why.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Basically what they are saying is that the people who currently buy American cars are super patriotic die hards who wont rate their cars poorly. Naturally no proof is offered to back this claim. The guy who is quoted seems to be speculating and of course that enough to get his opinion printed as gospel. Remember, even when Detroit shows progress there is always a catch, It can't have anything to do with the product being better. Obviously Toyota and Honda always have the most satisfying product even if surveys show otherwise. What is the point of a survey if you are going to qualify results you don't like. This is like the dismissal of Buick results in JD Power by saying the owners are so old they don't care about reliability.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well he's saying this about Cadillac in particular since it's sales fell (over many years not just this financial crisis) while satisfaction went up, which does support the idea that it's partly that the people who weren't satisfied just up and left.
        Seriously what's with everyone taking it personally as if this being true would mean the world is ending? GM just went bankrupt, might be time to you know, actually try and figure out what may be wrong and fix it instead of insisting that things are super fantastic.
        If everyone was buying more and more Cadillacs and the satisfaction kept going up, and GM didn't just go bankrupt and this guy was claiming that it's just because of die-hards then you could make a real case for bias. As it is? Get over it-the overly proud crap has to stop already, it's this kinda thinking that got us into this stupid mess. Never, ever, overestimate yourself or underestimate the competition. Even if GM had the best damned cars out there we should be thinking about what could be improved, and what's wrong with them, instead of just being proud and grinning like idiots while the competition catches up.
        Seriously, this nonsensical pride already doomed GM once, don't keep trying to repeat it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The headline is misleading. Cadillac and Buick are in the top five, but those brands are not representative of GM, nor are they major brands by volume. Chevy, GMC, and Pontiac are in the bottom half, and since GM sells a lot more Chevy than Cadillac, GM's corporate average has got to be near the bottom!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Cadillac and Buick represent half of the remaining brands at GM and you say they aren't representative of GM. That's pretty ridiculous.

        Chevy's figure is 83, GMCs is 82. Ford's (marque, not corporate) is 83. The industry average for automobiles and light vehicles is 84.
      katatonics
      • 5 Years Ago
      If the University of Anywhere Else did this survey, how well would the Big 3 fair?

      And Toyota, as much as I dislike Toyota-Lexus, is not on the same level of Volkswagen. They share their own level of low quality.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @katatonics
        Look at Chevy and Ford's ratings from 10 years ago and compare them to Toyota's. It didn't seem too biased then. Maybe, just maybe, American car companies are improving their quality?? Hmm, weird.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, even when GM achieves something positive you still put a negative spin on it. I wonder why there are so many know-nothing GM haters out there...

      Can we just move on and accept the fact that American car companys have improved their quality to match the competition? Bashing American car quality is so 90's. Get with the times people.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess in some peoples eyes, the domestics can do nothing right.
      • 5 Years Ago
      A 107 year-old brand that's had to struggle to get on par with a 20 year-old brand?

      Awesome... lol
        • 5 Years Ago
        what does that have to do with anything?
        • 5 Years Ago
        What 20 year old brand? If you like most that make such a common but rather stupid error are referring to Toyota, you are greatly mistaken, try about 72 years old:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota

        Also, it is not uncommon for any company in a long, say 100 year life cycle to hit rock bottom especially during times of global recession. Toyota was almost out of business in the 1950's:

        http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2155 Great article from Wharton school of business.

        Your comment has no merit.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Pat, for the most part I agree with you. However, I think the brands you mentioned made cars that were more reliable and less what people wanted to buy. Honestly, who WANTS to drive a Camry? No one. It just seems practical and apparantly most of the buying public is able to suppress their urge to have fun.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My point exactly. The majority of people don't buy cars they want. People buy bland cars with high reliability because it makes them feel responsible. Ford sells a decent number Mustangs because they are cars that people want. Toyota does NOT sell a zillion Corollas because they cars that people want; instead, its because they're pracical.

        Also, drivers afraid of their cars shouldn't be on the road as far as I'm concerned. If the driver in front of me doesn't trust themself then I sure as hell don't trust them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        For a lot of people, driving is not fun, it's a necessary evil. I know a number of people who are generally nervous and uncomfortable when they drive, whether it's from a previous accident or just in their nature. For them, what they want is a numb, insulated driving experience. They don't want feedback from the road, they want the car to hide the fact that they're actually driving. Hence, the Corolla.
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