Toyota, Lexus, and Cadillac Highest In Customer Satisfaction
Every year, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) interviews over 70,000 consumers to determine which brands consumers are most satisfied with. This year's automotive index showed Japanese brands increasing in popularity while American brands fell slightly. American manufacturers in Detroit topped the charts last year, and they certainly have to be worried after this year's results were released.
Japanese brands Toyota and Lexus tied for first place with Detroit based Cadillac, each earning a score of 87 percent, the highest satisfaction rate this year. The ASCI scale ranges from 0-100. The national average for automobiles and light vehicles was 83 percent for 2011. While the American luxury brand tied with Toyota and Lexus, last year's top three brands were all American. In 2010, Lincoln and Buick occupied the top spots with Cadillac, earning a score of 89 and 88, respectively. In 2011, Lincoln dropped over three percent to 86%, and Buick fell to 85%.
Industry analysts cite the reason for the American decline as two-fold. Last year saw a brief resurgence of struggling Detroit brands. Following economic disaster and bankruptcy in the early 2000's, General Motors began an aggressive campaign aimed at rejuvenating the struggling American brand and capturing younger buyers. Japan also saw its share of problems last year, with the huge Lexus and Toyota accelerator recall that plagued the brand's reputation. The Asian brands also ran into supply and manufacturing issues following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
As a result of American marketing and Japanese quality issues, last years numbers were obviously higher for GM and Ford. Analysts believe that Detroit will have to push hard to maintain higher customer satisfaction ratings in the future. Japanese manufacturers have almost all began to drop the prices for all models, making them more appealing to financially savvy shoppers. The price-reduction move by Japanese manufacturers may mean good news for shoppers who want to buy American, however. "Price discounting by Japanese automakers will make competition very difficult for all others, especially since industry sales remain weak," says Claes Fornell, founder of ASCI. "It used to be Detroit that was forced to use buyer incentives to compensate for its weaker customer satisfaction. Now, with the Japanese using discounts in addition to their strong customer satisfaction, Detroit will probably have no choice but to respond in kind, putting more pressure on profit margins as a result."
Fornell noted that American sales have been on the rise since the Detroit brands began marking their comeback. However, this year's data should cause Detroit to tread carefully as it enters the next year. "Production challenges for Japanese automakers provided an opportunity for Detroit to increase both market share and earnings, but declining customer satisfaction will make it difficult to sustain these gains as the Japanese companies begin to recover," said Fornell.