Study finds customer satisfaction up slightlyTue, 16 Aug 2011 00:00:00 -0700
U.S. customer satisfaction with vehicles industrywide has increased slightly, fueled by gains among Asian and European automakers, according to an annual report released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index on Tuesday.
Overall satisfaction with the auto industry climbed 1.2 percent from 2010 to 83. The index is scored on a 0-100 scale.
The University of Michigan study aims to measure customer satisfaction with the quality of goods and services in several industries throughout the United States. The American Customer Satisfaction Index has been measuring consumer satisfaction with the auto industry since 1994.
Cadillac, Lexus and Toyota tied for the top spot among brands in the 2011 rankings with scores of 87. Hampered by vehicle recalls last year, Toyota and Lexus saw their scores fall in 2010, but they rebounded this year as Toyota gained 3.6 percent and Lexus increased 2.4 percent.
Despite Cadillac's 1.2 percent increase, which propelled it to the top of the rankings, the Detroit 3 fared poorly compared with foreign competition as Lincoln, Buick, GMC and Chrysler were among six brands industrywide that lost ground. The others were Mazda and BMW.
Lincoln and Buick, which ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in last year's rankings, both fell 3.4 percent. Buick fell to 85 and Lincoln to 86, down from a record high in 2010 when Ford's luxury brand was still paired with Mercury as a single entity in the study.
The Chrysler brand, meanwhile, brought up the rear with a score of 76, a 5 percent loss from 2010. Dodge and Jeep were also near the bottom of the list, with scores of 79. Mazda, which fell 1.3 percent, also got 79.
Claes Fornell, creator of the American Customer Satisfaction Index and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference, said in a statement that the Detroit 3's low levels of customer satisfaction represent a squandered opportunity for the automakers to increase their market share.
"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," Fornell said.
Among the seven Asian brands in the index, all but Mazda saw their scores increase. Honda, with a score of 85, and Hyundai, with 83, both rose 1.2 percent. Nissan rose 2.4 percent to a score of 84, and Kia earned 81 points--a 1.3 percent gain.
Customer satisfaction with Mercedes-Benz was flat at 86. Of the ranked brands, Volkswagen had the largest percentage increase, jumping 3.7 percent to 84.
BMW was given an 83 ranking, a 3.5 percent loss from its 2010 score.
The Ford brand rose 2.4 percent to 84, and Chevrolet rose 2.5 percent to 82.
Each company's score is based on a sample of 250 telephone interviews with consumers. According to the survey, more than 70,000 interviews are conducted annually.
By Joseph Lichterman- Automotive News