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American Customer Satisfaction Index ACSI

Customer Care

ACSI: Car Buyer Satisfaction Rises

Good news for Detroit

Published: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 15:11

(ACSI: Ann Arbor, MI) -- Car buyer satisfaction rebounded as domestic and mass-market brands improved, according to new data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Customer satisfaction with automobiles is up 3.8 percent to a score of 82 on ACSI’s 100-point scale. Luxury cars have dominated the driver satisfaction rankings for years, but the top tier is now evenly split between mass market and luxury vehicles.

“The rise of mass-market vehicles may well be at the expense of luxury brands in the sense that buyers now see little differentiation between luxury cars and regular ones,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder. “If there is little difference, why pay more? Exclusivity may not be enough.”

Among 24 auto brands tracked by the ACSI, 16 improved while 5 declined—three of which are premium brands. The most notable decline is for Volkswagen, which is embroiled in an emissions-cheating scandal that has angered customers, government officials, and consumer and environmental advocates. In a year dominated by improving customer satisfaction, Volkswagen dropped 3 percent to 78, tied for lowest among mass-market vehicles.

“The combination of fines and fallen stock price are a big hit to Volkswagen’s finances, but it may prove even harder to recover from the reputational hit the company will take for deceiving customers and the general public,” says David VanAmburg, ACSI director. “Many customers or would-be customers could be turned-off of VW for life and it’s hard to put a value on that.”

All domestic automakers improved their customer satisfaction overall this year. The highest-scoring car is now a U.S. brand, as Ford’s Lincoln takes the lead with a 5-percent jump to an ACSI score of 87. Honda claims second place with an 8-percent gain to 86, while Toyota and BMW each advance 4 percent, placing these luxury and mass-market brands in a tie for third place at 85.

Lexus, which previously held first place, is now matched by GMC (+8%), Subaru (+2%), and Nissan’s Infiniti—the leading gainer with a 9-percent jump to 84. Audi (+6%) and Chevrolet (+5%) follow close behind at 83. The rest of the industry comes in below the industry average. The Ford brand edges up 3 percent to 81, catching up with Mercedes-Benz (-2%) and Hyundai (unchanged).

Nissan moves 4 percent higher to 80, matching Mazda (unchanged), while the Chrysler nameplate climbs 7 percent to meet Cadillac, Buick, Kia, and Mitsubishi at 79. Acura lost ground, falling 8 percent to 76 and finding itself at the bottom of the category.

“Year-to-date sales are looking pretty flat, and demand for cars may slacken some,” says VanAmburg. “But the good news for Detroit is that higher levels of customer satisfaction will make it more competitive.”

Among domestic automakers, Ford keeps its lead, stepping up to 84, followed by GM (81) and Fiat Chrysler (78). In comparison with foreign-made autos, which have long had the highest customer satisfaction, domestics are catching up, rising to 81 overall. European automakers also performed better, matching Japanese and Korean manufacturers with a score of 82.

The ACSI report, which is based on 3,776 customer surveys collected in the second quarter of 2016, is available for free download at http://www.theacsi.org/news-and-resources/customer-satisfaction-reports/reports-2016/acsi-automobile-report-2016.

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American Customer Satisfaction Index ACSI

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and produced by ACSI LLC, is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The national index is updated each quarter and scores on a zero-to-100 scale at the national level. The ACSI produces indexes for 10 economic sectors, 47 industries, more than 225 companies, and more than 200 federal or local government services.