The American Customer Satisfaction Index reported today that customer satisfaction with major automakers is at its highest level ever. The latest report collectively ranks the auto industry at 84 points out of 100, a ranking that matches that of 2009 -- and also is the highest rating for the car industry in the nearly two decades since ACSI began tracking such data.
ACSI representatives explain that this year's ranking is impressive because the previous high of 84 in 2009 was buoyed by cheaper prices on new cars. Back then, most car makers offered huge incentive deals to help move cars in a stagnant economy, and the government's Cash for Clunkers scheme further encouraged new-car purchases. This year's rating, however, is based on improved vehicles from major automakers.
"Customers are responding to better quality rather than price promotions," ACSI founder Claes Fornell said in a statement. "An ongoing commitment to quality seems like a workable formula for sustaining both customer satisfaction and sales growth."
The ACSI rating for the auto industry was 82 in 2010 and 83 in 2011. It was 82 in both 2007 and 2008, with the rating peaking in 2009 at 84.
The data show that American carmakers showed the biggest leap in customer satisfaction, but domestic companies still trail the satisfaction ratings of European and Asian companies. The highest-rated American brand was Ford's Lincoln division, at 90 points out of 100; General Motors' Buick followed with 87 points; Cadillac scored 86; Chevrolet scored 84; and Chrysler Group's Jeep brand followed at 83 points out of 100.
For American automakers overall, the ACSI says Ford Motor Company led consumer satisfaction at 86 points (up one percent year-over-year), while GM held steady at 84 points, and Chrysler Group rose four percent to score 81. That puts Chrysler Group below the industry average score of 84.
Several foreign automakers still lead the ACSI report overall. Toyota's luxury brand Lexus scored 89, Subaru scored 87, and BMW had 86 points. Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Toyota all tied at 85 points -- above the industry average.
The three automotive brands ranked with the lowest customer satisfaction were American: Dodge rose two points to 81, GMC fell three points to 80, and the Chrysler brand rose two points to score 78 out of 100.
Sources: ACSI, The Detroit Free Press