• Luxury brands rank highest in customer satisfaction
  • Some mainstream brands perform better than average
  • Overall, satisfaction declines from 2012

Luxury brand Mercedes-Benz earned the highest score in a recent survey that measures customers' satisfaction with their automobiles. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reports that Mercedes-Benz scored 88 points on a 100-point scale, five points above the average for all brands. Lexus, which topped last year's rankings with a score of 89, dropped to second place, scoring 87 points.

Overall, customers' satisfaction with their automobiles is down by one point compared with 2012. That marks a reversal of a 2-year trend of rising satisfaction.

Luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz often score highly in ACSI rankings, which are based on interviews with more than 4,000 customers. Several mainstream brands finished above the industry average, as well. Japanese automakers fared particularly well, with Subaru, Toyota and Honda scoring 86, a third-place tie behind Mercedes and Lexus.

Two GM brands -- Cadillac and GMC -- posted the highest scores among domestic automakers. Both scored 85 points. With a score of 84, Volkswagen rounded out the above-average scores.

Four automakers scored at the industry average of 83: Ford, Chrysler, Nissan and Acura, a newcomer to the survey.

ACSI says the results reflect a growing divide between domestic and import brands. The satisfaction gap between U.S. and Asian automakers is the widest in five years. But domestics aren't the only automakers to post declines. In fact, 53 percent of the 20 brands included in the survey saw scores slip compared to 2012.

ACSI suggests that high demand is responsible. Automakers are scrambling to meet that demand, ACSI contends, resulting in a "quantity over quality" approach. But the declines are short-term. The industry average over the past five years is 83, identical to this year's average. That's up from a score of 80 for years prior to the recession.

Stagnant scores could also be a result of changing customer expectations. Drivers want better vehicles, and automakers work hard to deliver improvements. Of course, what's new now isn't new forever. And what used to be a helpful, nice-to-have feature can, in a few years, seem like a necessity drivers can't live without.

What it means to you: Mercedes-Benz offers the highest customer satisfaction of any major brand, and Lexus is not far behind. Top mainstream brands include Honda, Toyota and Subaru.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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