• Aug 17th 2011 at 2:01PM
  • 87
The American Customer Satisfaction Index has released the results of its annual investigation into the automotive industry, and the biggest winners hail from Japan. Although Cadillac is tied with Lexus and Toyota atop the standings with an overall score of 87, just one short year ago the top few automakers – with Buick and Lincoln at the tippy top – hailed from the United States.

According to ACSI, it seems Toyota's fall from grace in the minds of consumers was just a small blip in a long history of customer satisfaction. Lincoln dropped a few points to join Mercedes-Benz with a score of 86, while Buick and Honda both earned 85. Next on the list is a three-way tie at 84 from Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Chrysler was the poorest performing automaker in the report, eking out a meager score of 76. Overall, the auto industry itself scored 83 points, which is higher than the average for all durable goods on the index. For all the details from ACSI, check out the press release after the break.
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Japan Improves While Detroit Stalls; Aggregate ACSI Growth Too Weak to Bolster Increase in Consumer Spending

Toyota and Lexus Brands Retake ACSI Lead With Cadillac in Tow; Lincoln and Buick Shift Into Reverse; Chrysler Slumps

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (August 16, 2010)-A customer satisfaction resurgence for international carmakers puts Detroit's fledgling recovery in jeopardy, according to a report released today by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The report covers customer satisfaction with an array of nameplates offered by domestic and foreign automobile manufacturers, along with an update of the national ACSI.

ACSI and the National Economy: No Lift in Consumer Demand
Second quarter results for the aggregate national ACSI, calibrated for all companies measured in the past 12 months, reveal marginal improvement compared to the first quarter, gaining 0.1% to a score of 75.7 on ACSI's 0-100 scale-not enough to make a dent in consumer spending or spur economic growth.

"Not only is the increase in the nation's overall customer satisfaction minute, its impact on consumer demand weakens in a struggling economy," says Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference. "While demand generally shifts to companies that do a good job of satisfying their customers, aggregate demand in times of economic distress is hampered by other factors, such as doubt about the future, job uncertainty, and lack of discretionary income."

Automobiles: Clouds Darken for Detroit
Japan scores big with two entries among the top three positions in ACSI. After falling last year amidst major quality problems, Toyota's Lexus (+2%) and the Toyota (+4%) brand itself glide into first place at 87, matched by GM's Cadillac (+1%). Overall, the auto industry ACSI score improves by 1.2% to 83.

Detroit's 2010 capture of the ACSI lead proves short-lived as the defending customer satisfaction champs, Lincoln and Buick, endure a 3% slump to 86 and 85, respectively. Mercedes-Benz holds steady at 86, while Honda inches up 1% to 85. Among the top seven ACSI carmakers, five are luxury brands, with Japan's best U.S. sellers (Honda and Toyota) rounding out the group.

Small gains of 2% take both the Ford nameplate and Nissan to their best-ever ACSI scores of 84. Recovering from a steep drop in 2010, Volkswagen also hits 84 (+4%), but stays shy of its record high (86 in 2009). At mid-industry, BMW trails other luxury brands, tumbling 4% to a 14-year low of 83 and finding itself in the company of Hyundai (+1%) and GMC (-1%). Chevrolet (+3%) and Kia (+1%) follow at 82 and 81, respectively.

The worst scores in the industry go to Chrysler, despite small-to-modest gains for its Dodge (+1%) and Jeep (+3%) product lines. At 79, both nameplates tie Mazda (-1%)-the weakest Japanese offering-while the Chrysler brand itself suffers a second consecutive 5% slump to 76.

Detroit saw a respite in competition in the past year, with profit and market share benefitting from quality and supply problems faced by Japanese carmakers, but now the real test for the domestic car industry is about to begin. Not only is customer satisfaction heading in the wrong direction and lower than international competition, Toyota and Honda are adding large price discounts as they attempt to recoup market share.

"Price discounting by Japanese automakers will make competition very difficult for all others, especially since industry sales remain weak," says Fornell. "It used to be Detroit that was forced to use buyer incentives to compensate for its weaker customer satisfaction. Now, with the Japanese using discounts in addition to their strong customer satisfaction, Detroit will probably have no choice but to respond in kind, putting more pressure on profit margins as a result."

While domestic sales have increased (the exceptions are the Chrysler and Lincoln nameplates with negative year-to-date sales growth), lower customer satisfaction could impede Detroit's comeback. "Production challenges for Japanese automakers provided an opportunity for Detroit to increase both market share and earnings, but declining customer satisfaction will make it difficult to sustain these gains as the Japanese companies begin to recover," notes Fornell.

Customer satisfaction averages for the three U.S. automakers show Ford maintaining its lead at 85, followed by General Motors at 84 (both down 1% from last year). Chrysler, in contrast, lags significantly behind at an average of 78, occupying the most precarious position with regard to both domestic and international competition.

About ACSI
The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. Data from interviews with approximately 70,000 customers annually are used as inputs into an econometric model to measure satisfaction with more than 225 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as more than 130 federal government programs, agencies, and websites. Results are released on a monthly basis with all measures reported using a 0-100 scale. ACSI data have proven to be strongly related to a number of essential indicators of micro and macroeconomic performance. For example, firms with higher levels of customer satisfaction tend to have higher earnings and stock returns relative to competitors. Stock portfolios based on companies that show strong performance in ACSI deliver excess returns in up markets as well as down markets. And, at the macro level, customer satisfaction has been shown to be predictive of both consumer spending and gross domestic product growth.

The Index was founded at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and is produced by ACSI LLC.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Joan G.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nobody asked me. I've had five Saturns and not any trouble with any of them. I need a new one now.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Mazda at the bottom -- I concur!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Fancy Toyota, Fancy Chevy, and Toyota.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Theres only one rebadged Cadillac. The escalade. All others have there own bodies. There are more rebadged Lexi than cadillacs
      Doctor Nick
      • 4 Years Ago
      Interesting to see that Volvo (still listed as a Ford brand) has an NM ("not measured") since 2005 and Subaru since 1998. Sales/popularity of brands vary by region of course, but here in Vermont you can't throw a rock in a parking lot without it bouncing off two Subarus and a Volvo. Having them be absent/lumped in under "all others" reduces the utility of the data in this neighborhood...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I love my 2010 Chevy Malibu LTZ. The 3.6L V-6 launches the car. The dash is very stylish. It hasn't given me any maintenance problems. Even though the EPA says it gets 26 mpg on the highway, I get around 28 mph on long drives on the interstate.
      the sri lankan
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hyundai? wheres Hyundai?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @the sri lankan
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the comment by one reviewer about Jag and Land Rover. As long as you stay away from insulting, arrogant and condescending dealers like those in my area and go to garages you have had working relationships in the past, Jag is a good car. After Ford straightened them out as to fit, finish, modernization of facilities, they have a fantastic product but lousy dealers. The dealers have beautiful facilities but their management personnel know nothing about cars and combine that with unknowledgeable auto owners leaves much to be dissatisfied with. Want a smile go to the Jag dealer. Want action take it to your local garage.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Doesn't look like much difference between 1st place and last place.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Toyota car is best car!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm surprized someone hasn't developed a car and called it "The Obama". Oh but wait, this car would promise good mileage----but not deliver, promise a good ride---but run out of momentum and have a price tag for the person that just lost their job and would be weather-resistant because, anyone who has this car lost his house to forclosure. The model would not be an Impala or Accord but--------"Hope and Change". How's that working for ya ???
        Tolitz Rosel
        • 4 Years Ago
        yeah, political commentary is awesome sauce... go back to your campaign trailer lemming...
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is actually amazing. People don't know if the car is good or not, they believe the rap of others. I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee (the sixth since 1986) and I wouldn't trade it for anything but another Jeep. My neighbor has three Chrysler products and all exceeded expectations as did similar cars with two other friends.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I've had my Toyota FJ60 Landcruiser since new in 1984. It's been to Alaska seven times, off roaded, and gotten me through almost impassable snow. With over 200K on the odo, I've kept it well maintained and it still looks very good and drives even better. So, I guess it's a "Jeep Thing and I wouldn't understand" why you've had to have six of them since 1986.
          • 4 Years Ago
          and my 1978 Jeep CJ is still pulling daily driver duty as well...... You toyota boys are so full of it.
          • 4 Years Ago
          I think his Jeep thing is to buy a new one every few years. Not because they wore out (he probably traded them in) but because he likes to get new vehicles every few years. You like to keep yours long term. Different strokes for different folks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Six Jeeps since 1986. Hmm, I've only had 2 Toyotas.
          • 4 Years Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wouldnt be surprised that Hyundai had the biggest gain! thumbs up to them!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Never ownced one, or its sibling KIA. But they are GREAT at copying BMW and Mercedes on styling. On that basis alone, its hard to justify the additional costs for a nameplate.
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