General Motors Company (GM), Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (HMC): Is Detroit Falling Behind The Japanese?

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New Chevrolets like the Impala are receiving rave reviews. The current product line is one of the brand’s best ever. So why are Chevy’s customers so unhappy? Photo credit: General Motors Company (NYSE:GM).

Is Detroit falling behind the Japanese – again?

A survey released this past week showed that the gap in customer satisfaction between the Detroit automakers and Japan’s top names has grown over the last year, even though Detroit’s new cars are better than ever.

The new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey shows that when it comes to satisfied customers, Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM), Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC), and Subaru still shine.

Meanwhile, General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet brand has fallen from above average last year to the very bottom of the heap.

The gap between Japan and Detroit is widening
The survey included about 4,000 randomly selected folks who had recently bought a new car. Last spring, ACSI asked them a bunch of questions to find out how satisfied they were with their cars and with the overall experience.

Among the findings:

  • Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM), Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC), and Subaru each scored 86 points, higher than every American brand included in the survey. Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM)’s and Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC)’s scores have risen in the last year. Luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and Lexus were the only brands to score higher.
  • Among American brands, Cadillac and GMC led with scores of 85, just one point behind Toyota.
  • Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) scored an 83, the survey average, as did Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:NSANY). Both scores were unchanged from last year.
  • The Chrysler brand gained ground – it’s now average – but Chrysler Group’s other two brands, Dodge and Jeep, both fell.
  • Dodge and Chevrolet tied for worst of the bunch. That was a big fall for Chevy, which was just ahead of Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) a year ago.

So what does all this mean?

Is Detroit doing too much at once?
Since the economic crisis, all three of Detroit’s automakers have pushed hard to overhaul their product lines to make them more competitive with the world’s best. On the whole, they’re succeeding – but that push has come with a cost.

Last year’s launch of Ford’s Escape was marred by recalls, but the compact SUV has gone on to be a big sales success. Photo credit: Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F).

For Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), new-car launches have proven to be a challenge. Last year’s launch of the Escape was followed by several recalls in quick succession – and quality glitches slowed last fall’s launch of the Fusion sedan. Both have since gone on to be best-sellers, but buyers of early models may have become frustrated.

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