17 August 2010

Ford, GM Brands Top Customer Satisfaction - Study

The Wall Street Journal

One year after chaos engulfed the U.S. auto industry, American consumers say cars built by Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. are the tops when it comes to vehicle satisfaction.

Ford's Lincoln-Mercury and GM's Buick brands took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, in the American Customer Satisfaction Index released Tuesday. Lincoln-Mercury had an 89% customer satisfaction average while Buick was 88%.

This was the first time U.S. auto makers have held the two top spots in the survey. BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz all finished together with an 86% average.

"It was not long ago when Detroit's products were clustered at the bottom of the industry," said Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI. "Although very few automakers improved this year, the domestic ones are either steady or have lost less in customer satisfaction compared to international competition."

The results are a boost to two of Detroit's Big Three auto makers. Both Ford and GM have endured their own challenges during the past year as consumer demand remains sluggish. GM took the hardest hit when it filed for bankruptcy last year. Ford is also planning to dissolve its Mercury brand by the end of the year.

Chrysler Group LLC. the smallest of the Detroit auto makers which also filed for bankruptcy and merged with Fiat SpA, didn't fare as well. Its Jeep brand finished in last place and its Dodge nameplate was second to last. The Chrysler brand finished 15th out of the 19 ranked brands.

Nissan Motor Co. showed the biggest customer improvement with a 5.1% improvement over the prior year.

"Although the near future looks promising for General Motors and Ford, at least in a competitive sense, the near term for the economy does not look bright," Fornell said. "Labor markets show no sign of improvement, financial markets are edgy and consumers are cautious at a time when more household spending would be desirable."

The survey breakdown has Lincoln-Mercury at 89%; Buick with 88%; BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz at 86%; Lexus with 85%; GMC, Honda and Toyota at 84% and Ford, Hyundai and Nissan at 82%.

Volkswagen had 81% followed with Chevrolet, Chrysler, Kia, Mazda with 80%. Dodge had 78% and Jeep was 77%.

ACSI's data are collected via phone interviews with respondents age 18 to 84. Each company's score represents an aggregate of 250 individual phone interviews. ACSI reports scores on a zero to 100 scale at the national level. It also produces indexes for 10 economic sectors, 45 industries, and more than 225 companies and federal or local government agencies

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