ACSI: the perils of satisfaction surveys
Tuesday, August 19th, 2008
Today the Detroit News reported on the latest results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, specifically the fact that Detroit brands did worse this time around and ranked near (or at) the bottom.
Claes Fornell, the professor who heads the study, noted, “The gap is extending. Detroit is falling. It’s all foreign at the top and all American at the bottom.”
To Fornell’s the the newspaper’s credit, they do note a major reason for Detroit’s decline: people are unhappy with the fuel economy of their large SUVs and pickups–most of which were made by Detroit.
In other words, people are unhappy that the vehicle type–not brand–they decided to buy as much as three years ago uses more gas than they’d like it to–now that gas costs about $4 a gallon. This doesn’t really reflect badly on Detroit.
A key problem with these results: they’re only reported at the brand level. It would be nice to see how Detroit’s CAR models compare to the foreign-based competition, but the numbers needed to do this weren’t released.
Finally, the absolute differences are small. Every brand except Jeep is within five points of the average, and even Jeep–the worst–is only six points worse than the average.
As they stand, these results don’t tell us nearly as much as they pretend to.