• Aug 18th 2010 at 11:01AM
  • 41
The annual American Consumer Satisfaction Index is out, and while the auto industry as a whole slipped this year, Lincoln-Mercury and Buick moved to the top of the heap for the first time ever. Each of the domestic brands was rated on a scale of 100, with Ford Motor Company's LM outpost scoring an 89 (up one point from last year) and General Motors' Buick holding steady at 88 points. Mercury capturing part of the top spot is somewhat bittersweet, of course, as the Blue Oval announced in June that it will shutter its mid-level brand.

On the Japanese side of the street, Lexus took a hit from the string of recalls that has haunted Toyota this year. Almost every recent Lexus model was affected by at least one recall, while a smaller percentage of Toyota brand vehicles were covered. Lexus was down five points for the year to 85 with Toyota down two points to 84.

Nissan took the biggest jump of all 19 brands, rising five points to 82, while at the same time, Chrysler dropped a similar amount to 80. Dodge and Jeep brought up the tail of the group with 78 and 77 points, respectively. The auto industry as a whole averaged 82 points – well ahead of the average of 75.9 for the entire U.S. economy. You can check out the complete ACSI results in the press release after the jump.

[Source: The American Consumer Satisfaction Index | Photos Copyright ©2010/ AOL]
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ACSI: Detroit Tops Auto Industry for the First Time Ever

Ford and General Motors Claim Top Two Spots Amid Weakening Customer Satisfaction; Domestic Autos Overtake Japan and Korea for the First Time in a Decade

ANN ARBOR, Mich., [August 17, 2010]-Customer satisfaction with domestic automobiles has shown resilience despite an overall decline for the industry, according to a report released today by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Automobile satisfaction dips 2.4% from an all-time industry high to a score of 82 on ACSI's 0-100 scale, but Ford and General Motors are holding steady and their Lincoln- Mercury and Buick nameplates take the lead for the first time ever. Chrysler, however, continues to underperform, with two of its three divisions at the bottom.

"It was not long ago when Detroit's products were clustered at the bottom of the industry. Although very few automakers improved this year, the domestic ones are either steady or have lost less in customer satisfaction compared to international competition," said Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference. "In this sense, the near future looks good for Ford and General Motors. Satisfied customers tend to do more repeat business, generate good word-of-mouth and don't require greater price incentives to come back."

Even though satisfaction with most domestic and foreign automakers declines in 2010, U.S. brands show the smallest drop, while Japanese and Korean brands fall the most, putting the U.S. slightly ahead of the Japanese and Koreans for the first time since 2000, although both continue to trail European automakers.

The news for the U.S. economy as a whole is not as positive. The national ACSI is unchanged from the first quarter of 2010, but it has dropped slightly from a year ago. Following steep increases just before the economy began to recover, customer satisfaction is now stalling. The overall ACSI score is 75.9, compared with 76.1 in the second quarter of 2009.

"Although the near future looks promising for General Motors and Ford, at least in a competitive sense, the near term for the economy does not look bright," said Fornell. Labor markets show no sign of improvement, financial markets are edgy and consumers are cautious at a time when more household spending would be desirable. Even though ACSI is at a high level, the trend is not upward. Increasing customer satisfaction, rising disposable income and greater consumer confidence would probably be necessary to bring about more spending."

Among the individual auto nameplates, Ford's Lincoln-Mercury division leads, up 1% to an ACSI score of 89, its highest ever, followed closely by GM's Buick, unchanged at 88. Behind Lincoln and Buick are BMW (−1%), Mercedes-Benz (unchanged) and Cadillac (−3%), all tied at 86, followed by Toyota's recall-plagued Lexus division, down 5% to 85. At the other end of the spectrum, Chrysler's brands drop below the industry average, with the Chrysler division down 5% to 80, Dodge down 4% to 78 and Jeep at the bottom, falling 3% to 77.

A year ago amid the global recession, both discounting and the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program helped many brands reach their highest satisfaction levels ever as a smaller customer base saw an increase in value for money, but this has not been sustainable across the industry. Several automakers retreat from all-time highs set in 2009: Honda (−5% to 84), Hyundai (−4% to 82), Volkswagen (−6% to 81) and Chevrolet (−4% to 80) all drop sharply this year. The same goes for Cadillac, Lexus, Chrysler and Dodge-all declining from record-high scores last year.

Overall, 14 of the 19 largest auto nameplates show some deterioration in customer satisfaction over the past year. Of the few nameplates holding steady or improving, Nissan makes the biggest gain, up 5% to match the industry average at 82 and rebounding from a similar drop a year ago. GMC shows a smaller improvement, up 2% to 84.

Toyota's recalls have had a bigger effect on Lexus than on the Toyota brand. The Toyota brand recalls were more visible, affecting millions of Toyota vehicles, but the Lexus recalls impacted a greater proportion of recent Lexus owners, sweeping across nearly the entire Lexus lineup for problems ranging from fuel leaks and engine stalls to rollover risks. While Lexus drops sharply, Toyota declines only half as much, falling 2% to 84.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe big toothy grilles are simply more satisfying?....
      • 5 Years Ago
      In response to Going to the US of A's question....simple advice I give my friends and family is RENT one of each...then buy the one you like best! Pretty easy to make a big mistake without some real time behind the wheel....and a short test drive isn't going to get the job done.
      If you're more worried about your "image" than getting your money's worth....well, I guess you'll be taking a chance anyway...why not drive something you really like!?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Going to miss Mercury. I refuse to go to a Ford dealer for service(always seem to not follow instructions or leave the inside of my truck dirty). I only go to my nearest Lincoln Mercury dealer. In the last 10 years( at least), they only missed fixing something right one time. Otherwise, flawless service. Followed my service advisor from a Ford dealer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The elderly finally speak out.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You know, I went to ACSI's website to see who they are since I haven't heard of this survey before, and found a page saying that a good score is related to company earnings. Except this is the chart they used as evidence:

      Even worse it seems like the higher the ACSI score the worse the economy gets, lol:

      I know it's unrelated but I just found it really funny that they're using these charts as evidence of how important their index is even though they charts don't seem to show any positive correlation. Also, it looks like Lincoln knocked Cadillac out of the top spot since Cadillac had an 89 last year.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There are many companies out there that would love to be where Mercury is sitting in Customer Satisfaction (irregardless of who the customers are that are saying so). Too bad Ford couldn't figure out how to capitalize on that and make it work. I still think they should have taken Lincoln to a low volume upscale brand and repackaged Mercury as a Mid-Luxury Brand. Ah well, C'est la vie.

      Now they've gotta find a way to make Lincoln work. Good Luck.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I see your "disirregardless" and raise you "isn't not without non-undisirregardlessness...sike!"
        • 5 Years Ago
        There is no such word as "irregardless"
        • 5 Years Ago
        disirregardless then ;-)
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      How is it that Subaru gets passed up? no data has even been collected for the brand since 1998, even though it has experienced some of the most rapid growth in the industry over the last 3-4 years. According to one survey, it has the best customer satisfaction of any brand in Australia (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/subaru-tops-poll-for-satisfied-customers-20100803-115i9.html). I know it's small, but with >2% of the market share, it deserves to be at least measured.
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good for Nissan, a five point jump is great!
        • 5 Years Ago
        lmao I can't believe your comment got voted down. Can't high five non-Detroit 3 I guess.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No no, don't get me wrong. I'm not worried about the buying process. I'm worried about the cars that I "can" buy.

      Let me give you an example. If I'd buy a Mitsubishi Pajero or any kind of truck in Germany people would laugh behind my back or even straight to my face.

      Not so with a Touareg for instance. I don't know these "rules" in America. So let me rephrase: What would I typically buy if I were American born? And are the cars that I mentioned ok for a marketing person?

      I know this is ridiculous but image is everything, isn't it?
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's exactly what I mean Bob.

        Well, let me put it this way. I'm gonna work with clients who are mostly located in blue states and work in biotech and the green energy industry.

        So a hybrid might be good. What I certainly don't want is to pull up in a German, a Korean or a Japanese car. Especially with a German car I think it would make the impression that I don't like American products and just came to the US for the money. Before someone starts the flame wars, it certainly is not like that. I'm not really trying to get an advantage with this. It's more like trying to be neutral.

        If someone asked me this question I would advise him to get a Golf. In Germany a Golf is not in a certain class when it comes to image. If a rich entrepreneur drives one it would be perceived as a reasonable choice that puts saving money over prestige and not as odd.

        So what I'm basically looking for is a full-size SUV and a sedan that a working Joe and a big shot could drive alike.

        If I didn't give a damn I would probably buy a CTS and a Tahoe hybrid. They fit my needs and I like them. But I don't know if other people like to see me in these cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I understand what you are asking, and some may flame me for my answer. You are hitting on reality. What people drive says something about who they are; it is often fashion, transportation and even your politics rolled up into one.

        I think what you drive will depend on the clients you are servicing as a marketing professional. If you work in Michigan and roll up in a Lexus to service a client who is affiliated with the domestic three automakers, it might look bad. I could see many clients in the Midwest looking down on anyone who drives a luxury import. If a client is an environmental group, you might want to look at a smaller car. If you are going to work in LA, CA, you might get the opposite reaction than the Midwest, where you will drive for pure prestige.

        I think you probably understand where I am going with this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Stop at the Ford dealer once you get here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      hmm...ok, I hadn't read this post before making my prior comment - and given that certain impressions do need to be made by those in marketing, I get where you're coming from now.

      In terms of domestics that might suit your requirements, I'll stand by my suggestion of the Buick Regal; it's a 4-door powered by either a NA 4 or turbo 4, and can still achieve a great mix of economy and performance. If you're looking to go greener, you might consider the Escape or Fusion hybrids - in fact, the Lincoln version of the Fusion (sorry, I get confused with the model names, as they all seem the same to me - MKS, MKZ, etc..) has the hybrid available for the same price as the non-hybrid. In terms of SUVs, again, it'll depend on how much you're hauling, but the new Explorer apparently has some very fuel-efficient engines available. If you're not likely to have more than 5 in the vehicle, you might also consider a super-cab pickup.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're a grown man with two kids. Who cares?

        If I have a choice between two businessmen, all other things being equal, I'd choose the dad in the Acadia with cheerios in the seats over the guy in the shiny E Class every time.

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