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ACSI American

Customer
Satisfaction
Index®

ABOUT ACSI
The American Customer Automobiles & Light Vehicles
Satisfaction Index (ACSI ) is a
® 82 1.2%
national economic indicator of
customer evaluations of the quality
of products and services available
to household consumers in the
United States.

The ACSI uses data from


interviews with roughly 250,000
customers annually as inputs
to an econometric model for
analyzing customer satisfaction
with more than 380 companies
in 46 industries and 10 economic
August 28, 2018
sectors, including various services
of federal and local government
agencies.

ACSI results are released ACSI


throughout the year, with all
measures reported on a scale of AUTOMOBILE
0 to 100. ACSI data have proven
to be strongly related to several REPORT 2018
essential indicators of micro and
macroeconomic performance. For
example, firms with higher levels of
customer satisfaction tend to have
higher earnings and stock returns
relative to competitors. Stock
portfolios based on companies
that show strong performance in
ACSI deliver excess returns in up
markets as well as down markets.
At the macro level, customer
satisfaction has been shown to
be predictive of both consumer
spending and GDP growth.

© 2018 ACSI LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

Volvo Challenges Lexus for Best Luxury Automaker;


Subaru Leads in Mass-Market Segment

Customer satisfaction with automobiles and light vehicles is up 1.2% to a score of 82 on the American
Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI®) scale of 0 to 100. According to car buyers, both product and
service quality have improved, but the rise in driver satisfaction is largely the result of better value. Tax
cuts may have contributed somewhat by creating more disposable income, which helped boost sales to
near-record levels during the first half of the year.
Nevertheless, the improvement in value will be difficult to sustain. The auto industry is already under
pressure from rising metal costs, and proposed tariffs on auto imports threaten to raise prices further for
international automakers—as well as American-made cars using imported parts.

Eighty-six percent of the above-average nameplates in the ACSI are imports. European-made cars have
the highest owner satisfaction, steady at 82, while Japanese and Korean automakers slip to 81. U.S.
manufacturers come in last at 79, losing ground for a second consecutive year.

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

Among domestic automakers, Fiat Chrysler is the only company to improve overall customer satisfaction
this year. At 78, however, the automaker remains in last place among Detroit’s Big Three. Ford takes the
lead from GM by keeping pace at 81, while GM slips behind to 80.

Although customer satisfaction is up for the industry overall, individual nameplates post more losses
than gains. Among the 25 automakers tracked by the ACSI since 2017, 9 improve (6 of which are foreign
brands) and 12 decline.

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

ACSI data show that automakers continue to streamline the recall process. While the proportion of
drivers who had vehicles recalled this year hasn’t changed, the negative impact on customer satisfaction
is considerably less. Customer satisfaction among drivers who had a recalled vehicle is now only slightly
lower (80) than those who had no recall (81).

However, individual company performance—and even nameplates within each company—varies widely.
Ford, for example, appears to have learned lessons from its experience with recalls; for most Ford drivers,
a recall had no adverse impact on satisfaction. Moreover, Ford’s Lincoln nameplate even registers higher
satisfaction for customers who experienced a recall.

MASS-MARKET VEHICLES
In the mass-market segment, Subaru leads with an ACSI score of 84, despite slipping 1% from a year
ago, and ranks best in class for both dependability and safety. The Japanese automaker, however, is
particularly vulnerable to import tariffs, as half of its vehicles are produced outside the United States. A
2% gain boosts Honda to second place at 83, tied with Toyota. In 2017, Toyota led the category at 86,
but now registers a 3% decline. In July, Toyota also reported a 6% drop in sales compared to the same
month a year ago.

Volkswagen is one of the most improved mass-market cars with a 4% rise in driver satisfaction to an
ACSI score of 82. The automaker has doubled the length of its warranties, and is outperforming GM and
Toyota in sales. Volkswagen’s success with consumers is due in large part to its SUVs, where it is rapidly
gaining market share. The automaker continues to invest in new technologies, and drivers say that the
fuel economy of Volkswagen’s vehicles is now among the best in the industry.

Several nameplates cluster below average at an ACSI score of 80. Among these are BMW’s MINI,
returning to the ACSI, and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram, which debuts this year. The remaining automakers at 80
fare the same or worse than they did a year ago. As SUVs and crossover vehicles gain popularity with
drivers, automakers can’t seem to adapt quickly enough. GMC registers the largest drop in this group
(-5%), followed by Hyundai (-4%), which relies on a lineup of sedans. Mazda slips 2%, while Jeep, Nissan,
and Buick are unchanged.

Mitsubishi edges up 1% to 79, met by two nameplates in descent: Kia (-4%) and GM’s Chevrolet (-2%).
Like VW, Fiat shows the most improvement, up 4% to 78, but it stays at the lower end of the category.
Dodge and Ford tie at 77 but move in opposite directions—Dodge advances 3% while Ford retreats 3%. A
6% drop for the Chrysler nameplate pushes it to last place with a score of 74. According to its customers,
Chrysler vehicles rate on the low end for both interior and exterior design as well as warranties.

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

Drivers report minor changes in the customer experience with mass-market cars. Driving performance
is up slightly (86), but dependability is down (85). Vehicle safety is unchanged (85), as is comfort (83).
Drivers give slightly lower marks for the look of exteriors (84), but interiors are unaffected (83).

According to car buyers, technology is not advancing fast enough (80), and gas mileage continues to be
the low point of mass-market vehicles (78).

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

LUXURY VEHICLES
Volvo is the major winner in the luxury-vehicle segment. A 4% gain boosts the Swedish-Chinese automaker
to an ACSI score of 85, tied for first place with Toyota’s Lexus (-1%). This is a new high for Volvo, the most
improved luxury car of 2018. The automaker expects record sales in 2018. Volvo reportedly doubled its
investment in its U.S. operations to $1.1 billion last year, and may be further shifting resources to better
navigate import tariffs. Along with Lexus, Volvo receives top marks for both vehicle safety and comfort.

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

Ford’s Lincoln is the top-rated U.S. automaker, up 1% to an ACSI score of 84. Audi also posts a 1% gain
to 83. Import tariffs pose a particular threat to Volkswagen’s Audi because it does not have a plant in the
United States.

Following a raft of recalls, Mercedes-Benz retreats 2% to 82, evenly matched with Cadillac, which slips
1%, and BMW, unchanged. Acura steps up 1% to 81, ahead of Nissan’s Infiniti, which returns to the ACSI
at the bottom of the luxury category at 78. Drivers give Infiniti the lowest rating in the industry for gas
mileage and its warranties are lacking compared to other luxury plates.

According to owners of luxury cars, changes have been positive in several areas of the customer
experience. Driving performance is excellent, safety has improved, and cars are more dependable than
ever (ratings of 87). Exterior look and interiors continue to impress (both 87). Regardless of the automobile
category, everybody wants better warranties and better gas mileage, and luxury vehicles improve slightly
in both areas (83 and 78, respectively).

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

ABOUT THIS REPORT


The ACSI Automobile Report 2018 covering both domestic and foreign automobile nameplates is based
on interviews with 4,649 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between August 11,
2017, and July 31, 2018. Customers are asked to evaluate their recent purchase and driving experiences
with automobiles manufactured by the largest companies in terms of market share, plus an aggregate
category consisting of “all other”—and thus smaller—auto nameplates.

The survey data are used as inputs to ACSI’s cause-and-effect econometric model, which estimates
customer satisfaction as the result of the survey-measured inputs of customer expectations, perceptions
of quality, and perceptions of value. The ACSI model, in turn, links customer satisfaction with the survey-
measured outcomes of customer complaints and customer loyalty. ACSI clients receive confidential
industry-competitive and best-in-class data on all modeled variables and customer experience
benchmarks.
ACSI and its logo are Registered Marks of the University of Michigan, licensed worldwide exclusively to
American Customer Satisfaction Index LLC with the right to sublicense.

No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the data and information in this report
without the express prior written consent of ACSI LLC.

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ACSI
ACSI Automobile Report 2018

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