The most hated car company in America is
If you own a Mercedes, your relationship with your car may be something akin to love (admit it, you’ve gazed longingly at that finely engineered machine). But if you own an Acura or a Dodge, you might feel a little, er, less adoring towards your auto, according to new data.
A survey released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed that customers’ satisfaction with both domestic and foreign automakers hit a five-year low this year, falling 1.2% from last year to a score of 82 out of 100. What’s more, satisfaction with 80% of the 21 car brands measured fell as compared to last year (Acura 7267, -0.11% saw the deepest decline at -7%, Cadillac GM, +0.52% the second-steepest decline at -6%), while satisfaction rose for only 10% of the car brands, including Chevrolet and Buick. “The decline among automakers is widespread,” the report revealed. The ACSI Automobile Report 2014 is based on interviews with 4,360 randomly selected consumers who were asked to evaluate their recent purchase (within the last three years) and experiences with automobiles.
Forrest Morgeson, ACSI’s director of research, says that part of the reason we’re seeing this decline is that during the height of the recession automakers were offering a variety of incentives and perks for buying cars, and now many of those have dried up. And now consumers find themselves less satisfied with their auto purchases because they’re not getting as many incentives when buying a car. Furthermore, he adds that the myriad recalls impacting the auto industry recently have made consumers less satisfied with the industry as a whole.
The most-loved car makers include Mercedes-Benz DDAIY, +0.66% which holds its No. 1 spot from last year despite a 2% decline in customer satisfaction, and Subaru 7270, +0.67%Morgeson says that the dominance of Mercedes-Benz isn’t surprising, as luxury cars — thanks to often superior quality and service — often dominate the rankings. Subaru and Volkswagen VLKAF, +0.15% — though not luxury cars — tend to have smaller market share than many bigger brands in America, which helps with customer satisfaction rankings, and very loyal drivers (Morgeson likens them to Apple computer devotees in some ways), which puts them high on the satisfaction list.
On the flip side, Acura, which saw a 7% decline in customer satisfaction over last year, is the most unsatisfying car company to consumers, the ACSI revealed.
Morgeson says that this was a surprising finding and that the researchers aren’t sure why it ranked so low (last year, it ranked in the middle), but says that it’s possible that this brand simply doesn’t meet consumers’ expectations as much as other luxury brands. Acura was closely followed by Chrysler’s Dodge FIATY, +1.18% which saw a 1% decline in customer service over a year prior, and by Jeep and Audi. Some of these brands’ rankings were not surprising because less expensive brands tend to rank lower on the list on average, as they often have slightly lower quality and service than do luxury brands, says Morgeson. Acura, Dodge, Jeep, Audi, BMW and Cadillac did not respond to a request for comment, and Mazda could not be reached for comment.
Automakers are far from the most disliked industries among consumers; that honor goes to Internet (63 out of 100) and cable and pay TV (65) providers and airlines (69). And even the worst-ranked automakers don’t score as low as some of the worst-ranked of those companies.
Still, there’s room for improvement. Unfortunately, for recent car buyers, Morgeson says that one of the best ways for consumers to ensure that they get a car they’re satisfied with is to do their homework before buying. Sites like Edmunds.com, AutoTrader.com and Cars.com can help you get started with the research. Consumer Reports also provides excellent reviews of cars. But, he adds, that voicing your complaints can help you get what you want with a car you own now; escalate your complaints to a higher authority if you’re not getting what you want from the automaker.