Fifty years ago the equipment disparity between luxury vehicles and economy cars was vast, but things are different today. With the exception of nicer materials and cutting-edge technology, you can get essentially everything you would want in a basic hatchback. We’re not talking about power windows and air conditioning either; the technological trickle-down now includes things like active safety systems, heated seats, in-car navigation, multiple driving modes, and more.
As it turns out, the great unwashed masses of today enjoy their pleb-mobiles at about the same level as affluent individuals like their own diamond-encrusted executive mobility suites. The reason? Because nobody cares about premium features they can’t figure out how to use, nor do they miss technology that isn’t part of their daily routine.
Overall contentment among domestic vehicle owners dropped slightly in this year’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. Meanwhile, enjoyment from European and Asian automakers stayed roughly the same. However, that information might not be quite so useful until you begin comparing individual brands (and even other industries).
Domestic automakers averaged 80 out of a possible 100 points in the ACSI scale, with General Motors as the only American manufacturer seeing an improvement from 2016. For the sake of comparison, let’s see how other industries are doing on either end of the spectrum: Cable companies, which everyone hates, averaged 64 points and television sets, which everyone loves, scored 87 points.
By and large, that doesn’t place automakers in the doghouse. But it does highlight a modest shift in the perception of specific domestic brands while longtime satisfaction leaders, like Toyota and Lexus, hold pole position.
Consumer Reports’ Annual Owner Satisfaction Survey was released today, showcasing exactly how owners feel about the vehicular choices they’ve made this year.
While numerous manufacturers managed to keep owners living in automotive tranquility, some lacked the required magic. There was even one automaker that had a nearly 50/50 split of producing customers that, if given the chance, would travel back in time to stop themselves from engaging in the single purchase that created the dystopian hell they unknowingly forced themselves into.
It was Fiat.
Of course it was, and this news won’t shattering anyone’s reality. The automaker has consistently found itself near the bottom of every list we’ve come across this year. The Italian automaker did manage to keep all of its models out of the steaming mound of cars people most regretted buying, however — it happened to be one of very few FCA divisions eligible to make that claim.
The just released American Customer Satisfaction Index, based on interviews with over 4,000 recent new car buyers, finds that car buyers are less satisfied this year than last, with the index dropping 1.2% to an industry average of 83%. It’s the first time in two years that a decline in new car buyer satisfaction has been measured, but customer satisfaction is still significantly higher than the index’s 1979 baseline of 79% of customers being satisfied.
The survey measures consumer satisfaction based on quality, purchase price, the dealership experience, and other factors. The authors of the study say that the small drop may ironically be due to past improvements in quality and customer satisfaction.