Domestic auto makers are gaining ground on their foreign counterparts in terms of customer satisfaction, says the American Customer Satisfaction Index, compiled by the University of Michigan's National Quality Research Center.
The study finds customer satisfaction with autos in general is up 1% on a 100-point scale to 82 vs. year-ago. Survey respondents must have owned their vehicles for at least three years.
Most of the increase comes courtesy of the Detroit Big Three and European brands, says Claes Fornell, NQRC director.
“The domestic manufacturers are edging closer to the Koreans and the Japanese, but they're still behind,” Fornell tells Ward's.
Although Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus luxury brand still tops the index with a score of 87, domestic nameplates are in hot pursuit, with Cadillac up 2% to 86; Lincoln-Mercury up 4% to 86; Ford up 4% to 80; Chevrolet up 1% to 82; Dodge up 3% to 80 and Buick unchanged at 86.
Ford Motor Co. still has a ways to go to equal the industry average, but the marque's 7% improvement over the past two years is the largest in the industry.
While the domestics made strides, Toyota and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. slipped 3% and 2%, respectively, to 84; while Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. fell 2% to 80 and Mazda Motor Corp. slid 1% to 78.
Of all Asian makes, only Kia Motor Corp., up 1% to 78, posted an increase.
Even more surprising than the gains by domestics was Toyota's falloff, Fornell says.
“Toyota has gone from No.1 to far down in the pack,” he says.
“(Toyota's) been very successful, and as it's producing more and has a larger number of customers, it's more difficult to manage growth and quality at the same time,” he says.
Fornell says this year's survey reveals an interesting trend: Customers are more concerned with quality than with price, especially when it comes to the Detroit Big Three.