The American Customer Satisfaction Index shows a strong rebound for the auto industry after years of declining satisfaction, with the exception of the embattled Volkswagen, still in the wake of its very public emissions-cheating scandal.
The report, to be released today, is based on a survey of 3,776 customers who have purchased or leased a new car within the last six months to three years. It includes analysis and scores on the ACSI’s 100-point scale rating customer satisfaction with over 20 of the most popular automotive nameplates sold in the United States.
After three years of lower scores, customer satisfaction with automobiles bounces up 3.8% to 82 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale. All domestic American automakers improved their customer satisfaction scores this year, with Ford’s Lincoln jumping 5% to become the highest-scoring vehicle at 87.
Volkswagen has the most notable decline among the 24 auto brands measured by the ACSI, dropping 3% to 78 for the lowest score among mass-market vehicles.
“The combination of fines and fallen stock price is 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, in a release. “Many customers or would-be customers could be turned-off of VW for life and it’s hard to put a value on that.”
Among 24 auto brands tracked by the ACSI, 16 improve, while five decline — three of which are premium brands. 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, in a release. “If there is little difference, why pay more? Exclusivity may not be enough.”
All domestic automakers improve customer satisfaction overall this year. Ford’s Lincoln takes the lead with a 5% jump to an ACSI score of 87. Honda claims second place with an 8% gain to 86, while Toyota and BMW each advance 4%, 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% 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% to 81, catching up with Mercedes-Benz (-2%) and Hyundai (unchanged).
Nissan moves 4% higher to 80, matching Mazda (unchanged), while the Chrysler nameplate climbs 7% to meet Cadillac, Buick, Kia and Mitsubishi at 79. Acura loses ground, falling 8% to 76 at the bottom of the category.