U.S. automobile satisfaction dropped in 2013

Even though American car sales picking up, U.S. automobile satisfaction is declining. 

According to a new report, American automobile satisfaction dropped this year.

A total of 4,078 customers were randomly interviewed as part of the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Surprisingly, automobile customer satisfaction (measured on a scale of 0-100) fell for the first time in two years, from 84 in 2012 to 83 in 2013.

The  authors of the study said that the drop could be due to significant improvements that had previously been made in the industry which increased automobile customer satisfaction – therefore expectations were high.

However, the score is still much higher than the original baseline of 79, in 1994 – when the index started. The index measures the quality of dealership experience, purchase price, and other factors.

The authors of the study said in their report:

“Higher levels of customer satisfaction create greater customer expectations that auto makers are then challenged to meet—let alone exceed.”

The drop should not worry manufacturers, however, companies should be aware of pent-up demand and excess production. This is a particular problem for U.S. auto makers as foreign automobiles are perceived as being better quality.

U.S. car manufacturers ranked last in satisfaction score (at 82), after Asian auto makers (84.1) and European ones (84.7).

mercedes cla

 Mercedes leads the way this year in automobile customer satisfaction.

Mercedes-Benz topped automobile customer satisfaction with a score of 88 – a 4 percent increase from last year. Lexus came in second place with a score of 87. 

The top non-luxury companies were Toyota, Honda, and Subaru – each scoring 86.

In fourth place came GMC and Cadillac – at 85. Ford and Chrysler matched the industry average at 83 and Chevrolet and Dodge came in last place with scores of 79.

Mr. VanAmburg, ACSI (American Consumer Satisfaction Index), said he’s not too sure how Ford’s decision on reducing the fuel economy rating of their new Ford C-Max hybrid affected its rating. However, he does not think it will make too much difference considering the index does not focus on one particular model.

Mr. VanAmburg stressed that domestic car companies must attract foreign-brand customers with better pricing and more effective strategies. 

VanAmburg said:

“The risk is what happens when that pent up demand is gone, and it certainly isn’t going to last forever. It’s going to run out at some point and you’re going to drop back to more regular levels of demand.

Right now, in the U.S. auto makers are churning out cars like crazy. There certainly is some risk there that, on the one hand, they could be stuck with a lot of inventory. On the other hand, even if they’re not, what is there to build future growth on? Really, the only thing to build future sales growth on is to do a better job of satisfying customers. You’ve got win over some of those purchasers of Asian brands and European brands.”

He concluded:

“As the industry has been doing better, particularly since the recession, we’ve seen higher numbers for many nameplates, and certainly for the industry as a whole. That tends to engender higher expectations in customers the next time they make a purchase.

That can put a little pinch in customer satisfaction as the auto makers are challenged to keep meeting and exceeding those customer expectations.”