US: research shows consumers were not happy last year with quality issues and higher vehicle prices image

Although the crop of new vehicles released in recent years comes pre-equipped with safety and comfort features that looked futuristic just a decade ago, these additions have made people crankier as they come with quality issues and increased pricing.

According to the latest edition of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, last year’s overall car buyer satisfaction slid 3.7 percent for the third straight year – now at 79 out of a maximum total of 100. Naturally, the decrease was expected, given that last year the automotive industry called back through safety campaigns a record tally of more than 60 million autos. The ACSI announced that owners saw a 40 percent jump in recalls during the second quarter of last year alone – with numerous recalls tied to the same electronics and safety features that supposedly made the cars friendlier and safer.

“Higher prices are clearly hurting customer satisfaction, but low prices also have artificially inflated satisfaction numbers in the years prior,” comments David VanAmberg, ACSI director. “The government’s Cash for Clunkers program helped push driver satisfaction to its highest level ever in 2009. The customer satisfaction levels the auto industry is seeing now are more consistent with historical ACSI data.”

The index takes into account 27 brands – with 15 of them posting negative results compared to the previous study and only two of them actually improving. The results also pay off for the foreign brands – 77 percent of those were above the average, with the top scoring brands being the Japanese and the luxury ones in general. Ford, if Lincoln is factored in, offered the only local performance – sitting at the same level as last year (81 points). General Motors dropped to a 79 score and FCA receded to 75. The overall ranking was won by Lexus, ahead of Mercedes, Lincoln and Acura that shared the second place.