US automakers fall further behind foreign brands

The satisfaction gap between the Big 3 and overseas manufacturers has widened, with domestic cars lagging imports.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 27, 2013 1:20PM

CNBCFile photo of customers looking at a Chevrolet car at a General Motors auto dealership (© Stringer/Newscom/Reuters)By Philip LeBeau


For the first time since 2010, Americans are less satisfied with the cars and trucks they're driving, according to the 2013 American Consumer Satisfaction Index.


The latest (ACSI) also finds the satisfaction gap between the Big 3 -- Ford (F), General Motors (GM), and Chrysler -- and foreign automakers has widened with domestic brands falling further behind import brands.


David VanAmburg, Director of the ACSI said the drop in scores should be a concern for the Big 3, "This could become problematic once demand slackens, making further sales growth more challenging unless customer satisfaction improves."


Overall, satisfaction with 20 different auto brands fell 1.2% to a score of 83 on a 0 to 100 scale. ACSI researchers believe customer satisfaction is slipping in part because vehicle reliability may be suffering as automakers ramp up production.


Highest- and lowest-ranked brands

As is often the case with buyer satisfaction surveys in the auto industry, import brands outpaced the Big 3 in the latest ACSI.


Among the list of highest- and lowest-ranked auto brands, two in particular stand out. Mercedes' satisfaction score increased 4% to put the German brand in first place, while Chevy fell 6% to drop to the bottom of the list.


The ACSI did not show the Tesla (TSLA) brand among the 20 auto brands in the survey.


Big 3 falling behind

For GM, Ford and Chrysler, the latest ACSI report raises questions about why domestic brands are slipping again. Five of the eight U.S. brands fell in the latest survey.


Just five years ago, the Big 3 and the Asian auto brands were in a virtual tie when it came to customer satisfaction. That's no longer the case.


So what's wrong?


VanAmburg said the domestics may be losing focus as they add more shifts and run their plants at capacity.


"U.S. automakers may be stretched too thin, ramping up production to meet rising demand," he said. "Quality may be giving way to quantity."


Luxury brands leading the way

With luxury auto sales growing faster than overall sales in the U.S., American car buyers are also finding greater satisfaction with upscale brands.


Luxury brands ranked at or above the industry average of 83 includes Mercedes, Lexus, Cadillac and Acura.


BMW, with an ACSI score of 82, is the lone luxury brand ranked below the industry average.


The ACSI was calculated after more than 4,000 consumers were surveyed in April and May.


More from CNBC

Aug 27, 2013 4:58PM
looked at the ford explorer...42.0000 escape 33.000 loaded said what the heck...went to bmw saw the 328 for 34.000 loaded and looked at the x5 for 43.000 almost loaded. setteled on a audi q 5 for 34.800 . WHY would I pay luxury car prices for a ford???? they priced themselves out of the marked imo. 
Aug 27, 2013 4:35PM
Rising demand?? Who the can afford to and why would you buy a new car in a shrinking, collapsing economy like we have in the US? I guess buyers believe the lie that there is a recovery.
Aug 27, 2013 5:01PM

I bought a 2012 Chevy Cruze because it was a very popular car and selling well.  I bought the LT Trim (middle of the line).  I drove it, and found it had a good ride and everything for $21,000.


Did I get the mileage Chevrolet claimed for the Cruze (28-36) for the non-eco version?  BARELY.  If I tried hard, I could manage to average 31 MPG on a tank of gas.  With the dinky little turbo engine.


At 600 miles on the odometer, the car started having rattles and vibration noises throughout the dash/console.  The Chevy dealer?  Couldn't fix it.  It was a "known problem" that was reported on a lot of Cruze's.  You got lucky or you didn't.  Why did it develop?  Cheaply built interiors.


At 1200 miles, I had a recall to remove the engine plate protector that could cause a fire if oil were to drip.  Doing so increased the road noise.


Around 2000 miles, the windshield wipers had to be replaced because they were falling apart


At 2500 miles, the brake line started squeaking everytime I pressed the brake, you could hear squeak noises.


At 3000 miles the front wheels started showing rust on the rims.


At 8800 miles, I traded in the car (at a loss) and bought a Subaru Forrester.  I average 28-30 MPG driving/commuting and 35 MPG on the highway (nearly matches the Cruze but is has a 2.4L 4 cylinder engine (versus a 1.4L), and is a  MiniSUV that weighs about 2x as much as the Cruze).  I have 3200 miles on the car.  No squeaks, no rattles, no rust, no recalls.  And it is one of the safest cars to drive.  I bought the TOP of the line Touring Edition that has everything.  $31000. 


And they wonder why they have declined in customer satisfaction... REALLY?!?

Aug 27, 2013 4:07PM

With union workers quality will always suffer! I paying unskilled assembly line workers so much the manufacture has to cut back on quality! The unions have us made cars now costing what a cheap house does! I saw someone was even offering 8 years car loans ??

    They union mentality of promotion thru seniority is but one of its faults. The great worker and innovational worker gets what everybody else gets. The slowest laziest and stupidest worker could be promoted ahead of the "best" employee!

   Unionism is like socialism only the poor, lazy and stupid get ahead, everybody else gets dragged down!  No reason to excel because there is no reward!

   Name one industry that the unions have not destroyed or forced out of the county ?  All unions should be outlawed !!! 

Aug 27, 2013 4:35PM
G M  pays $50.00 an hour PLUS MEDICAL benefits and  retirement to hang doors

They are also backed by the GUBERNMENT 

Aug 27, 2013 4:31PM
The first car I bought was an American one - and it was the last one too. Unions have corrupted the American auto industry just like they did the Steel industry and no one in the country has learned from it. And with the government bailing out the industry again, there is no accountability nor incentive to do better.
Aug 27, 2013 5:39PM

first car..vega....second car......pinto.......third and every other car Honda...........I wonder why

Aug 27, 2013 5:21PM
USA cars have been union made since the forties and before. Since union membership has declined, there has been a corresponding decline in the USA standard of living: no pensions, low pay, no health benefits, no vacation pay, sick leave...going, going, gone. Without unions, pay, benefits, promotions, and layoffs are handed out to the best ****-kisser or golf buddy. Are these the best people for the job?
Aug 27, 2013 5:02PM
the big three haven't been since chrysler was bought by fiat. and by the way, a lot of those foreign cars are made in this country in union shops. 
Aug 27, 2013 4:40PM
Msnbc are a bunch of anti-american pigs.
Aug 27, 2013 5:11PM
Toyotas are by far the best vehicles on the road.  More of your Toyota vehicle was built in the US than you'll find in a Chevy.  A large number of Chevys are now built in China and it is a trend that will increase as Chevy shifts its manufacturing base there.  As a taxpayer it makes me so happy to learn that, after we bailed them out.
Aug 27, 2013 5:39PM
Why doesn't anyone ever mention that the government bailed out Wall Street too and there are no union jobs there.  On Wall Street people get paid a ton of money to do nothing but make more money for themselves!  At least the auto industry produces something!
Aug 27, 2013 5:13PM

This report seems to be at total odds with the 2013 JD Power Initial Quality Survey. 


For instance, Chevrolet ranks 5th and GMC ranks 2nd ! Only Porsche received higher scores than GMC. So if, as this article states, owner satisfaction is "slipping in part because vehicle reliability may be suffering as automakers ramp up production", that is clearly not the case with GM vehicles.  All GMs brands scored above industry average.


My last 3 cars were GM.  I'm currently in a 2013 Chevy Cruze LTZ and it's probably the best car I've ever owned.  The fact is, every auto manufacture builds a far better product than they were building 5 to 10 years ago. 


Oh, and incidentally, it's totally misguided (to put it kindly) to blame union workers for any aspect of a vehicle that owners may be displeased with.   

Aug 27, 2013 6:01PM
In the fifties, sixties and seventies a union worker owned a 3 bedroom home, 2 cars, maybe a boat or RV and sent his kids to college.  No where else in the world was that true for a factory worker - and unions did that - they built the middle class in this country.  So before you go trash the unions and the members thank them for the contribution that they made towards expanding our economic viability.  Things always change and unions did not prove to be flexible enough to last with changes. Too bad.  Now we all work for less and see foreign visitors in our national parks because they are the ones who can afford to travel.
Aug 27, 2013 9:36PM
This is what you get when the government comes to the rescue of the automobile industry. More of the same UAW crap. The apex of the American automobile industry was reached in the mid 1960's and its pretty much down hill from there. Although, it's predecessors the Cords, Packard's, Studebakers and Duesenberg  were a model for all the world to emulate. It's a bygone era........a nation in decline! Additionally, when Obama "saved" Detroit ( and we all know he didn't) he stiffed all the corporate bond holders. They got nothing after the auto industry was allowed to file for bankruptcy. I drive a Mercedes AMG now and get up in the morning excited about starting the engine. I wish it were different for the Americans but it's not and will never be again. Sorry.........but someone has to say it!
Aug 27, 2013 5:50PM

Unions had their purpose a long time ago.  A new dawn is here... a global trade one.  Now, unions are destroying the very manufacturing base they think they are attempting to save.  They aren't saving the industry -- they are trying to save their overpaid, underworked, over-benefited, over-bloated pension jobs. 


If you unionized autoworkers are as American and patriotic as you claim to be, realize your $85+/hour pay and benefit packages are destroying this great country.  Better that you just quit your jobs and allow them to be replaced by the new tier employees or non-unionized employees that give a crap about the sustainability of this country.  

Aug 27, 2013 5:24PM
There are way too many "big government" regulations in the US - makes everything we produce cost more......
Aug 27, 2013 4:37PM
Yeah, lets blame the unions instead of the executives who make hundreds of millions a year.  It's all the fault of the people earning peanuts.  What most people need to realize about foreign cars is that many of them are made in environments that are much more unionized.  If they can make it work why can't we?  Answer, too much money being siphoned off by the top.
Aug 27, 2013 6:48PM
Oh noooooooooooooooooo!! but, but, butbutbutbut... the Chevy Dolt, oops! Volt was supposed to be the alpha and the omega and a bag of chips (trans fat free of course)!! and fix everything??? wha happon???? whaaa happpon?? bail out didn't do dick huh? well who's the president again, oh right, obama, obama has the MINUS touch, everything that azzhole touches, or has a remote connection with is a DISASTER, and the latest disaster to come? A Syrian conflict which we have NO BUSINESS IN!!!!
Aug 27, 2013 6:46PM
Just bought a 2014 Jeep Wrangler.  Love it, baby.
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