Does the brand of the car you buy really make that much of a difference? That depends on how you look at it according to recent consumer satisfaction surveys. Sometimes the data can be confusing, so let’s see if we can make some sense of it.

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Revealing Survey Results

According to a new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, car buyer satisfaction has been declining now for three straight years. This discouraging news is even harder to swallow when we consider rising car prices and continued recalls. Still, there are some bright spots in the report. GMC, for instance, continues to do well as do various Japanese manufacturers. In general, luxury models also have better customer satisfaction ratings.

Of the 27 brands tracked in the survey, 15 ratings worsened and only 2 improved compared to last year. The other brands continued to hold steady.

The ACSI Automobile Report 2014 was conducted by interviewing over 4,000 new car buyers, all chosen at random between April 22 and May 29, 2014. Those surveyed were asked to rate their recent new car purchase and experience.

Sales Surprises

One of the paradoxes of this report are that poorly rated brands still have strong sales. Some reasons for this might be brand loyalty or attractive price points. The downside, however, is that many car owners might be experiencing unexpected car breakdown which can wipe out cost savings.

Many consider an extended car warranty good protection against car repairs that otherwise have to come out of your pocket at the time of repair.

Leaders & Followers

Luxury brands Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Buick join Subaru, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Honda at the top of ratings, but Cadillac, BMW, Audi, and Acura have declined to the bottom third. Here are the top dozen brands according to overall customer satisfaction:

  1. Mercedes-Benz (Daimler)
  2. Subaru
  3. Lexus (Toyota)
  4. Volkswagen
  5. Toyota
  6. Honda
  7. Buick (GM)
  8. GMC
  9. Kia
  10. Chevrolet
  11. Ford
  12. Nissan

The biggest gainers were Chevrolet and Buick which improved 4% and 1% respectively. Acura, Cadillac, and GMC had the largest percent drops in satisfaction at -7%, -6% and -4% respectively. city maps Volkswagen and Kia should get a nod for both staying unchanged.

What Do The Numbers Really Tell Us?

Overall the report is discouraging in the fact that few car makers improved their numbers. Does this mean that car quality is really declining or are new buyers just more critical? It’s hard to tell, but if there has been no quality improvement it could mean future reliability may not have improved much either.

In any case, despite all the new technology, new car buyers just aren’t that impressed. Hopefully things will turn around for more car makers in the future.

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You can access the full ACSI report here.

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