ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For years, luxury cars have dominated driver satisfaction. That changed in the second quarter, with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) showing an even split in satisfaction ratings for both both mass-market and luxury brands.
According to ACSI, improvements in domestic and mass-market brands are driving a rebound in customer satisfaction for those segments. And consumers aren't seeing much a difference between those brands and luxury makes.
"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, ACSI Chairman and founder. "If there is little difference, why pay more? Exclusivity may not be enough."
Among 24 automotive brands tracked by ACSI, 16 saw improvements and five saw declines. Three of the five brands showing declines, the firm said, came from premium brands — the most notable being Volkswagen. In a year where the overall customer satisfaction with automobiles is up 3.8% to 82 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, Volkswagen's score dropped 3% to 78.
"The combination of fines and fallen stock price are a big hit to Volkswagen's finances, but it may prove even harder to recover from the reputational hit the company will take for deceiving customers and the general public," says David VanAmburg, ACSI director. "Many customers or would-be customers could be turned off of VW for life, and it's hard to put a value on that."
All domestic manufacturers saw improvements in customer satisfaction, with the highest scores coming from Ford's luxury brand, Lincoln. Lincoln's customer satisfaction rating improved 5% to 87. Honda and Toyota claimed the second and third spots with satisfaction scores of 86 and 85, respectively.
Lexus, which had held the top spot in customer satisfaction, dropped to fourth place, tying GMC, Subaru, and Infiniti with a score of 84. Audi and Chevrolet increased their scores in the second quarter to 83. Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Nissan, Mazda, Chrysler, Cadillac, Buick, Kia, Ford, Mitsubishi and Acura all scored below the industry average of 82.
ACSI’s report is based on 3,776 customer surveys collected in the second quarter of 2016.