As if strong sales figures weren’t enough …
Customer satisfaction, which “plummeted” last year because of record vehicle recalls, rebounded in the first two quarters of 2016, according to a survey on the automotive industry.
A survey of nearly 4,000 new-car owners showed gains for 16 of 24 brands tracked by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), while only five declined. Overall, satisfaction with automobiles and other light vehicles gained almost 4 percent to 82 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale.
“Now automobiles are the pacesetters for customer satisfaction among 43 ACSI industries, along with the typically high performing television and video player industry,” the company reported.
While surveyed drivers said the quality of mass-market cars has improved, lower gas prices and increased incentives also contributed to satisfaction. As you might expect, customer satisfaction among drivers who had a recalled vehicle was significantly lower than those who had no recall, said ACSI.
‘Pleasing to consumers’
The top 10 brands among all automobiles and light vehicles scored above the industry average of 82 points, led by Lincoln, a Ford Motor Company product, with 87 points, followed by Honda (86); BMW and Toyota (85); GMC, Infiniti, Lexus and Subaru (84), and Audi and Chevrolet (83). Honda, Toyota, GMC, Subaru and Chevrolet are considered mass-market brands and the others luxury brands.
“Most aspects of the driver experience are very pleasing to consumers, reflecting an American affinity for automobiles,” according to ACSI. “The top grades for autos (overall) relate to performance, dependability, safety and exterior design, and are identical for both luxury plates and mass-market brands. Drivers are the least satisfied with the gas mileage of their vehicles.”
Among 10 benchmarks used in the survey, mass-market and luxury vehicles finished even on five, and luxury vehicles led by only one point on two other benchmarks.
Mass-market vs. luxury
“Consumers choosing luxury vehicles give better ratings for comfort, interior quality and technology features such as audio, navigation or video systems than those driving mass-market cars, but the difference is slight,” the company reported on its website.
“With less-expensive cars nearly matching the look, feel, handling and comfort of top-dollar brands, the luxury segment may not be giving consumers as much as they would desire for the higher price.”
“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,” said Claes Fornell of ACSI. “If there is little difference, why pay more? Exclusivity may not be enough.”
The data has proven to be strongly related to several key indicators of economic performance, ACSI said.
“For example, firms with higher levels of customer satisfaction tend to have higher earnings and stock returns relative to competitors,” ACSI said in its report on the survey. “[And] customer satisfaction has been shown to be predictive of both consumer spending and GDP growth.”