Top 10 Auto Brands That Keep You Satisfied According to J.D. Power
Updated May 26, 2018
Every year, J.D. Power publishes the results of its Customer Service Index (CSI) Study, which takes an almost forensic look at how well automakers are doing when it comes to satisfying their customers with the service they offer. The study measures levels of customer satisfaction with maintenance and repair services at dealerships supplying new vehicles. Owners of vehicles between one and five years old are questioned about the most recent service experiences they’ve had for both in-warranty work, and for work they’ve had to pay for. The study collates levels of satisfaction in five key areas of the service experience, and a score out of 1,000 is awarded to represent how satisfied customers have been. The areas looked at are: Service Initiation, Vehicle Pick-Up, Service Facility, Service Quality, and the Service Advisor.
There’s good news and bad news in the 2016 Study for mass-market manufacturers. It’s obviously good news that the overall average score has increased this year to 797 from 792 last year, but the bad news is that satisfaction when it comes to automotive recalls has declined for the first time in six years. It’s not a huge drop though, as this year’s score is down by only eight points to 781. However, with a record 51 million vehicles being recalled last year, it has to be an area of obvious concern for the industry as a whole.
So, if you want to know which brand is likely to offer the best levels of customer service when it’s time to take your vehicle in for work doing, here’s a list of the top-ten mass-market brands in the 2016 J.D. Power Customer Service Index Study.
Smart is a Daimler AG sub-brand that operates under the Mercedes-Benz car division, but it didn’t feature in last year’s survey due to a non-representative sample, so the American arm of the company has to be pleased with a place on this year’s list. With a range comprising of just two models, the Fortwo and Fortwo electric-drive, Smart has done really well in offering something different to the market that’s definitely caught the imagination of American consumers. A decent score of 804 in this year’s survey is well above the industry average, and a good reason for buyers to take these microcars and their dealers very seriously.
Volkswagen has enjoyed a deserved reputation around the world for producing very reliable cars for many years, but last year’s diesel emissions scandal has obviously done a great deal of harm to the brand’s standing with many buyers. Ninth place on the list shows that customers are still leaving dealerships pretty happy with the service they receive. However, this year’s score of 805 sees the German automaker drop several places and 13 points, compared to last year’s third-place finish with a score of 818. It’ll be interesting to see how the dust has settled when the 2017 survey comes around.
Toyota is another brand that trades on its reputation for reliability. Unfortunately, the Japanese auto giant has had more than its fair share of recalls over the last year or so, which obviously results in owners making more trips to the dealership than they might have been used to. Although Toyota’s score did go up this year to 809 points, the bar has been set a little higher in 2016. That means Toyota only manages to get to eighth place this time around, instead of the sixth place it achieved in 2015.
It’s sometimes hard to work out why the South Korean automaker has found itself needing to find global efficiency savings of up to 25 percent over the next year or so, when it appears to be doing so much right in the U.S. market. As well as producing a range of vehicles that continues to improve in terms of both styling and quality, its performance in this study shows its dealers are doing well too. Kia finished in eighth place last year with 798 points, but this year sees a notable improvement to 811, which is good for seventh place on the list.
Nissan is a brand that seems to be doing very nicely, although it’s doing it in a quiet and understated sort of way. Its models are selling well here in the U.S., and they’re picking up awards as if they are going out of fashion at the moment. As if that wasn’t enough, the dealer network certainly appears to be doing a fine job as well, as a score of 813 points gets Nissan up an impressive four places to sixth on the list, after scraping in at number 10 last year with a score of just 796. It’s an impressive improvement that will take some matching next time.
The Hyundai side of the South Korean automaker is unsurprisingly performing along somewhat similar lines to its sister company, Kia. A continually evolving and improving vehicle lineup is being complemented by an excellent performance from its U.S. dealer network. Hyundai gains one place this year and now sits in fifth place for CSI with an impressive increase in score to 814 over last year’s 803. A lot of observers keep questioning if Hyundai and Kia have reached a plateau after several years of impressive improvement, and every year the automaker seems to show that it hasn’t.
Chevrolet is continuing to make steady progress and advances one place up the list this year to a very creditable fourth place. Our friends across the pond may have been a bit sniffy in the past about the handling, build quality and reliability of our domestic cars when compared to the likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes, but that’s no longer the case. Not only are cars like the latest Corvette now a match for what is produced over there, 818 points in this study for customer service shows American manufacturers have really got their act together in every way. Up from 807 last year, don’t bet against Chevy delivering a similar improvement in 2017.
GMC is another domestic brand doing us proud in the survey again this year. It retains its one place advantage over Chevy on the list with a very healthy 830 points bumping it up a place to third this year, although the gap is now 12 points compared to just four in 2015. Things are looking good for GMC right now, especially with the new 2017 Acadia on the near horizon. It’s all well and good having an alluring array of vehicles to offer, but CSI scores like this suggest the brand is now built on very solid foundations for the future.
You have to have some sympathy for Buick this year. After topping the survey last year with 836 points, it would be only reasonable to expect the manufacturer to enjoy the same result after increasing its points total to an even more impressive 849 in 2016. However, despite raising its score by 13 points, Buick finds itself pushed into second place in the latest survey. It may be a position on the list its rivals will envy, but it’s not a great reward considering its score has improved so much.
After a close battle for supremacy with Buick in 2015, the British brand tops this year’s list with a pretty stunning score of 858. The company’s dealers certainly had to pull out all the stops to overtake Buick, but they have to take huge credit for delivering the biggest increase of any brand in the top ten this year of 24 points. Mini’s rivals could be forgiven for crying foul to some extent as the company is actually a subsidiary of BMW, which is obviously a luxury brand. However, just because you represent what is to all intents and purposes a luxury manufacturer, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee great customer service. Delivering a great customer experience is something all automakers obviously strive to achieve, so all the brands in the top ten of this year’s J.D. Power CSI study, but especially Mini, deserve to be congratulated.
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