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Car customer satisfaction slips for almost all, more for non-U.S. brands

Car dealership.

Customer satisfaction with new cars declined for the second year in a row. 

This year, satisfaction with new car purchases declined a little more than one percent, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. 

Founder Claus Fornell says car companies are churning out cars pretty fast these days to meet the high demand.  That may be increasing quality problems - and  recalls.

"It's a nuisance or worse, for consumers," says Fornell, "and therefore, it's not surprising that customer satisfaction is lower for those people who have had a recall."

But Fornell says satisfaction with cars is still quite high compared to most industries. That's because there's been a dramatic improvement in car quality.

"Compared to let's say 20-25 years ago, all these products are very good.   It is not low satisfaction compared to other industries, but it is going in the wrong direction."
People are still happier with foreign-based brands than domestic brands.  But, the decline in satisfaction was steeper this year for foreign makes than it was for domestics, narrowing the gap between the two.

Chevrolet and Buick were the only two brands to improve in customer satisfaction. 

Some luxury brands also did not do that well on the index.  Fornell says customer satisfaction used to be almost automatically higher for luxury cars.  Now, luxury brands are slipping.

"And I think it has to do with the sensitivity of the customer to price or price increases, or value for money, that you have to be a little more careful here when you price these luxury vehicles," says Fornell.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.