Customer satisfaction with today's crop of auto models is moving in reverse, according to data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Automobile Study 2021-2022 released on Aug. 23.
Overall customer satisfaction with automobiles slid 1.3% to a score of 77 (out of 100). A sharper 4% decline was noted with the group of smaller luxury and mass-market nameplates, which puts downward pressure on the industry as a whole, according to ACSI.
Japanese and Korean manufacturers improved 1 point, moving into a first-place tie with European manufacturers at 79. Legacy U.S. automakers continue to trail the competition despite a steady score of 77.
Luxury nameplates grew their lead over mass-market vehicles after surging 2.6% to 80; the latter remained stable with an ACSI score of 77.
“For the auto industry this year, it’s all about luxury brands, with the driver experience improving nearly across the board,” says Forrest Morgeson, assistant professor of marketing at Michigan State University and director of research emeritus at the ACSI. “Luxury plates Acura and Infiniti make a splash with massive customer satisfaction gains, but most mass-market brands falter. Fuel economy is a concern for consumers with high prices at the pump, while chip shortages make mainstream plates hard to come by. Customers may be facing long wait times or settling for models that don’t match their needs.”
After leading the industry last year, Honda plunged 6% to 77, same as Buick (unchanged), Nissan (down 1%), and Volkswagen (unchanged). Ford (down 3%), GMC (down 3%), Jeep (unchanged), and Kia (down 1%) all scored 76, while Dodge stumbled 5% to a score of 74.
Despite small gains, Chrysler (up 3%) and Mitsubishi (up 1%) share last place at 72.
Among mass-market vehicles, customers are most satisfied with comfort, dependability, driving performance, and vehicle safety. However, the latter benchmark dipped 1% year over year.
Drivers are least happy with warranties and gas mileage, which slipped 1% and 3% each.
Lexus laid claim to luxury market, but Acura and Infiniti zoomed into contention. Lexus took sole possession of first place in the luxury segment and the industry overall, after improving 4% to an ACSI score of 84.
Acura and Infiniti surged 8% and 9%, respectively, moving into a three-way tie for second with Audi (up 3%) at 82. Cadillac improved 4% to 80, matching Tesla (unchanged) and just ahead of Mercedes-Benz, which increased 1% to 79.
In terms of the driving experience, luxury vehicles improved almost across the board. Drivers were most pleased with comfort (84), up 2% year over year, and very pleased with interior and vehicle safety, both elements up 1%.
Only two benchmarks sat below 80: warranties (up 1% to 79) and gas mileage (unchanged at 76).
The ACSI Automobile Study 2021-2022 is based on interviews with 4,708 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between July 2021 and June 2022. The ACSI study and rankings are based on customers’ opinions of their own vehicles, and results are reported on a 100-point scale.