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Autos near top of consumer satisfaction poll on durable goods

November 24, 2010
Consumers are more satisfied with their autos than they are with most other major products, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, released Aug. 20. The auto industry scored 80 out of a possible 100, far above the average score for all durable goods categories and behind only home appliances, at 82. The job market has stagnated and the stock market has tanked, but consumers keep buying new cars and light trucks at a remarkable pace. Interest-free financing plans have contributed to surging sales, but the ACSI survey suggests there is more to the buying binge than just cheap financing. Automakers "have basically conquered the idea of manufacturing a product that works," said Claes Fornell, a University of Michigan professor who oversees the ACSI survey. "The personal-computer industry has not figured it out yet. This is not a reliable product, and the service is possibly getting worse, even though computing power is increasing." Personal computers scored 71 on the survey. Fornell said consumer spending is driven in part by the level of satisfaction that consumers get from their purchases; contented consumers will spend more than disgusted ones. With satisfaction holding up, Fornell said, the growth rate should return to its longer-term trend of about 3 percent. Some economists question whether there actually is a link between overall customer satisfaction and economy-wide consumer spending trends. But within the auto industry, few doubt that satisfaction has improved in recent years. Among automakers, BMW, Buick and Cadillac topped ASCI scores, each at 86. Lincoln Mercury Division scored 84, and Mercedes-Benz and Toyota tied at 83.