Special Report

America's Best (and Worst) Car Brands

American car owners seem to love their Lincolns while they are least satisfied with their Acuras, according to a recent survey of the auto industry.

These are some of the findings from the 2016 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Automobile Report 2016, a nationwide survey measuring customer experience among the major car brands. Along with record car sales, customer satisfaction appears to have improved as well. Of the 24 brands surveyed, 16 improved their customer service ratings in the ACSI compared to 2015.

While American companies tend to perform poorly compared to foreign automakers, a number of domestic brands improved their customer satisfaction scores this year. Still, while Japan-based Acura had the worst score, five of the nine worst rated brands are American. Among the eight brands with the best customer satisfaction, three are American.

Click here to see the best car brands.

Click here to see the worst car brands.

Cars are one of the most expensive purchases most people ever make, and American motorists expect their vehicles to meet certain standards. Performance and dependability are two important components of customer satisfaction. Not surprisingly, automakers with higher quality and dependability ratings from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power — authorities on product quality — tend to also have higher customer satisfaction scores.

In some cases, customer satisfaction is tied to less tangible attributes than vehicle reliability and performance. German automaker Volkswagen has consistently received high customer satisfaction marks over the last decade. However, after the company was caught in 2015 cheating on emissions tests for its diesel vehicles — a scandal that could end up costing the company tens of billions of dollars — customer satisfaction took a hit. This year, for the first time in a decade, VW’s customer satisfaction score dipped below 80, and is now second lowest in the industry.

Luxury brands tend to have higher customer satisfaction, likely due to overall vehicle quality and dependability, among other factors. Half of the brands scoring at least an 84 are luxury cars, while only two of the nine worst ranked brands are luxury makes.

Still, a number of mass-market brands have improved their standings with customers. This year, Honda and Toyota, two of the top-selling auto manufacturers in the world, ranked second and tied for third, respectively.

To produce the customer service scores in its Automobile Report 2016, the American Customer Satisfaction Index surveyed 3,776 randomly chosen people on their experience with one of 28 of the largest car brands based on U.S. auto share. The best rated cars scored at least 84, while the worst brands scored 79 or less. The benchmark for the auto industry for 2016 was 82.

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