Automakers recalled vehicles by the millions in the past year.
For the second time in the U.S., Kia issued a recall of over 342,300 Soul vehicles because of a steering flaw, and back in March, Ford announced a massive safety recall of 2014 through 2018 models of Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZ cars built in Michigan and Mexico. More than 1.3 million Ford vehicles were recalled because of the risk that steering wheels could detach from the steering column. According to Ford, two accidents and one injury have been linked to the problem.
While the number of recalled vehicles remains high, at least it’s steady, according to drivers. Per the ACSI’s 2018 Automobile Report, the proportion of drivers who experienced recalls hasn’t changed over the past year.
What’s surprising, however, is the effect these recalls are having, or rather, not having, on customer satisfaction.
How do vehicle recalls affect customer satisfaction?
According to ACSI data, customer satisfaction among drivers who had a recalled vehicle is only moderately lower than individuals who didn’t have a recall (80 to 81, on a scale of 1 to 100). On top of that, the data for Ford’s Lincoln shows that customers with a recalled vehicle actually reported higher satisfaction than the ones without a recall.
What can we attribute this odd behavior to? For one, the automobile industry has been doing a better job of handling recalls. Automakers have become more efficient in their recall process, using a more proactive approach to the problem, as opposed to a reactive one. But most importantly, automakers are owning up to their mistakes. ACSI’s latest recall data shows this level of honesty goes a long way with car owners.
This isn’t to say that all car manufacturers are benefiting from a more understanding clientele. Mercedes-Benz, for one, hasn’t been quiet on the recall front, and it’s paid the price. The company recently recalled nearly 500,000 cars because of possible accidental airbag deployment and nearly 43,000 Smart cars because of the risk of engine fires, among others. These incidents have contributed to Mercedes-Benz’s customer satisfaction score falling 2 percent to 82 this year.
Areas of improvement for the driving experience
So, if recalls aren’t causing a blatant negative impact among car owners, then what is? The answer: gas mileage and warranties. It doesn’t matter if an individual owns a mass-market vehicle or a luxury automobile, these two areas really grind customers’ gears.
Among mass-market vehicles, gas mileage is the worst part of the customer experience, though its score rose 1 percent to 79. Warranties are second from the bottom, holding steady at 80. Among luxury vehicles, gas mileage fell 1 percent to 77, while warranties retreated 1 percent to 82.
However, this isn’t the case across the board. Volkswagen, one of the most improved mass-market cars with a 4 percent increase in driver satisfaction, has shown it’s listening to consumers when it comes to warranties and gas mileage. The automaker has doubled the length of its warranties and drivers say that the fuel economy of Volkswagen vehicles is now among the best in the industry.
Despite these areas for improvement, automobiles continue to rank high in customer satisfaction among the 46 industries ACSI measures on an annual basis. Making changes for better warranties and gas mileage could be enough to bring the automotive industry up to the top of the list in the near future.