General Motors Co., under scrutiny for its slowness in handling a recall linked to fatalities, was the only automaker to have two brands that gained ground in a widely watched survey of customer satisfaction.
GM’s Buick and Chevrolet each rose while the total score for cars and light trucks fell 1.2 percent to a five-year low in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index, the research group said Wednesday in a statement. Overall, GM ranked ahead of Ford Motor Co. with Buick gaining 1 percent to match scores for the namesake brands of Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Chevy rose 4 percent to overtake the Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and Hyundai brands.
GM’s standing among consumers improved even though the survey found that recalls have an adverse effect on customer satisfaction, causing owners who’ve experienced a recall to rate their autos 6 percent lower than those who didn’t. The Detroit-based company has recalled a record 29 million vehicles in North America this year, as it faces multiple investigations into why it took more than a decade to call back 2.59 million small cars with ignition flaws linked to 13 deaths.
“A considerable investment in Buick appears to be paying off for General Motors,” Claes Fornell, the study’s author, wrote in the report. “Sales are up 12.5 percent for the first half of the year — the largest increase of any GM car — led by a surge in sales of the Buick Encore.”
ACSI, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, surveyed 4,360 consumers by telephone and email between April 22 and May 29, and asked them to evaluate their experience with a recent automotive purchase. The survey measures customer satisfaction with the top 21 automotive brands sold in the Unied States, and tracks vehicles purchased within the past three years.
Asian and European car brands continued to dominate the survey, accounting for six of the top seven brands. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz led the list, though its satisfaction fell 2 percent. Subaru was second, followed by Toyota’s Lexus luxury line.
Still, U.S. auto brands narrowed the gap with overseas manufacturers, mainly on the gains made by GM. Buick, which received a score of 83, was the only domestic brand to rank above the industry average of 82 on a 100-point scale.
Chevrolet and GM’s GMC truck line matched the industry average, while Cadillac fell 6 percent to a score of 80, matching the BMW and Mazda brands.
Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and Hyundai all scored 81. VW’s Audi brand, which was not measured last year, scored 79, matching Chrysler Group LLC’s Jeep brand. Chrysler’s Dodge brand ranked second from last with a score of 78, while Honda’s Acura luxury line was last with a score of 77.
While domestic auto sales are at their highest since the recession, the rate of sales growth “has contracted substantially in 2014,” Fornell wrote in the report. “The dip in customer satisfaction mirrors sluggish industry growth.”