Detroit Closing the Gap, But Imports Stay on Top

In a year of waning overall driver satisfaction, Asian and European cars command the field, holding six of the seven top slots in the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual measure of the automobile industry. Only one domestic vehicle, GM’s Buick, earns an above-average score for customer satisfaction.

top-autos-2014

Driver penchant for imports is not new in ACSI studies. The year 2010 marked the first time in a decade that U.S. plates overall managed to edge out Asian brands for satisfaction. The brief stint for U.S. cars over Japan/Korea followed one year after the auto industry hit a record-high ACSI score of 84, as aggressive dealer incentives plus the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program helped revive a recession-strapped industry. In 2012 autos hit 84 again, but since then driver satisfaction, on average, has waned.

For the last five years, European brands have held the high ground in ACSI. This year, Germany’s Mercedes-Benz leads the field at 86, helping Europe maintain the upper hand over Asian cars—but only by the slimmest of margins. With the entire industry trending downward, a less steep decline for Detroit’s Big Three works to narrow its gap to imports compared with a year ago.

2014-auto-dom-v-import

With imports now in its sights, Detroit could be poised to catch up—and perhaps even surpass—both Asian and European brands for customer satisfaction, but this has yet to occur in two decades of ACSI measurement.

Download ACSI Automobile Report 2014 »

Automotive News: Asian, European Brands Dominate Satisfaction Survey, but U.S. Brands Close Gap »

Marketing Daily: Satisfaction Dips; Imports Vs. Domestics Gap Narrows »