Automakers can impress consumers with solid reliability or lots of speed at a low price, but it takes a complete package to get full approval from owners. Fuel economy, comfort, interior technology, and safety specs usually factor into this equation.
The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) asks drivers about these elements and more when compiling ratings for each car company. For 2018, the index used replies from nearly 5,000 customers to gauge satisfaction scores (from 1 to 100) for each brand.
Here are the best and worst of the 28 car companies surveyed.
The best of 2018
After tying for first place in 2017, Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus both shed a few ticks to tie for third and first places, respectively. Meanwhile, Volvo gained 4% over the previous year to tie Lexus for the top spot overall. Vehicle safety and comfort were the reasons behind Volvo’s gains, ASCI data showed.
Here are the top seven car brands overall:
- Volvo, Lexus (tie) with a score of 85
- Lincoln, Subaru (tie) with a score of 84
- Audi, Honda, Toyota (tie) with score of 83
Of that group, Honda (+2%) showed a positive gain compared to a year earlier. Volkswagen (82) and Fiat (78), both of which gained 4% over the year prior, tied with Volvo as the survey’s top upward movers.
If you go by mass-market brands, Subaru led the pack and showed a 1% gain, putting the automaker just one tick off the pace of the top luxury brands. Subaru’s strength in safety and dependability, which pushed its cars to the top, won’t come as a surprise to anyone.
The worst of 2018
If you look at major drops from year to year, the GMC brand (?5%) had one of the steepest declines. Otherwise, Hyundai (?4%) and Kia (?4%) also registered significant drops in the ASCI data.
Still, out of the 28 car brands the ASCI considered, three automakers stood out with the worst overall scores:
- Chrysler with a score of 74
- Dodge, Ford (tie) with a score of 77
Along with the lowest score in the 2018 ASCI, Chrysler showed the most significant decline (?6%) since 2017. Survey data showed consumers rating Chrysler poorly for interior design, exterior design, and warranty coverage.
Two other Fiat Chrysler brands (Dodge and Fiat) ranked among the industry’s bottom five (Fiat’s gain notwithstanding).
Key ASCI data points
In addition to rating individual brands, the ASCI takes stock of how the auto industry is doing overall. The only area where consumers saw improvement came in performance (handling, braking, steering, and drive character).
Elsewhere, the industry was largely treading water in many key areas, including safety (85), comfort (83), interior design (83), and warranties (80). Website satisfaction, which had one of the lower scores (82), also stayed the same.
Meanwhile, automakers as a whole showed declines in dependability (85), exterior design (84), and technology. Fuel economy, car brands’ worst score of all (78), also dropped a point since 2017.
How would automakers get better at fuel economy when consumers buy more pickup trucks and SUVs than ever before? That’s a question for another article.