Marketing experts often say that word-of-mouth endorsement from those in our social circles are more influential than advertising. It makes sense. So, perhaps the somewhat surprising findings of a new study on customer satisfaction might influence your thinking. It is based, after all on surveys filled out by car owners about how happy they are with their cars.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan firm that conducts the study, The American Customer Satisfaction Index, says that customer satisfaction across the board continues to improve. It's no wonder. Car company executives regularly tell the editors of AOL Autos they are investing more and more money in making their cars more trouble free, and training their dealership personnel to be more knowledgable and helpful.
Customer satisfaction with the automobile and light vehicle industry improves for a second straight year, up 1.2 percent over last year to reach 84. The current score matches the industry's all-time high from 2009 when aggressive dealer incentives, combined with the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program, helped revive the recession-strapped auto industry.
Of the top five brands pleasing their customers the most: four are premium or luxury brands and only one is a so-called mass-market brand.
It's a good time for Cadillac to be ranked in the top-five for customer satisfaction. General Motors' luxury brand is amidst launching two new, important vehicles: The XTS sedan and ATS sedan.
The XTS is a long luxury sedan that replaces both the DTS and STS, both of which went out of production last year. The XTS has an interesting design feature that may throw some of Cadillac's traditional customers--the dashboard has no buttons and knobs. It' all haptic controls, which means the controls are akin to that of an iphone. See our review here.
The ATS is a new sports sedan that legitimately, we say, competes against the BMW 3 Series, the standard bearer among premium/luxury sport sedans.
Cadillac's dealer body has long been a leader in keeping customers happy. That, combined with snappy new products, could have Caddy going places this year and into 2013 when it comes to sales.
Subaru is the lone mass-market brand in the top five. The Japanese company has been on a sales tear the last few years, and has launched a few new products lately that are attracting a lot of new shoppers.
Subaru introduced an all-new designed Impreza in 2012, and is following that up with two all-new models and nameplates--the BRZ sports car and the Crosstrek crossover. Subarus, all of which come equipped as all-wheel-drive, also have the strongest resale value in their categories, which makes owners happy when they go to sell their cars.
Buick is GM's second "luxury" brand, though we prefer to think of Buick as "premium."
The brand, once targeted along with GM's Oldsmobile, has made a strong resurgence with baby boomers who seem to like Buick Enclave full-size crossover as an alternative to minivans and even big burly SUVs.
Buick's LaCrosse sedan has been turning heads, especially the e-Assist model, which gets best-in-class fuel economy. Additional new products this year include the return of the Buick Regal and all-new model, the Verano.
We at AOL Autos and Autoblog have been impressed with all the new Buicks, so it is no surprise to us that owners are ranking the brand high.
The luxury division of Toyota, when it comes to keeping customers happy, is like the kid in school who wins the science fair every year. The brand seems so good at delivering happiness to its customers, it's almost annoying.
Lexus vehicles ride smoothly, comfortably and they always seem to do exactly what we want when we test drive them. Our complaint about Lexus is usually that their cars provide too isolated a driving experience. There is literally no drama driving, or owning, a Lexus. And we think Lexus's customers like it that way.
Surprised? We are a little. After all, we just don't hear that many people talking about Lincoln, or buying one for that matter.
The product is very sound. The Lincoln MKZ, MKS and MKT are, like Lexus, no-drama vehicles. The MKT may not be the prettiest design on the road, but even the young Turks at Autoblog seem to like it for its roominess, utility and smooth drive.
Lincoln is looking to get a little jiggy going forward. IT will launch a new MKZ this Fall, a design that we thoroughly approve of. And it is transforming the way it markets itself. It has been studying the ways and practices of Ritz Carlton Hotels to try and improve the buying, and owning experience.
Judging from Lincoln's ranking in this study, though, they don't have far to go in that department.