Detroit automakers lose ground to foreign competition
NEW YORK—Tech titans Google, Inc. and Apple, Inc. topped the latest customer satisfaction survey, according to the University of Michigan’s 2008 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released this week.
The index surveys six manufacturing and e-business industries, and Google and Apple rose above the rest.
According to the survey, during a time when most computer manufacturers are suffering in quality, Apple recorded a gain in customer satisfaction, posting a score of 85 out of 100, an all time high for a computer company.
“It’s hard not to be impressed with Apple,” University of Michigan Professor Claes Fornell said. “This is product extension at its best where the new products, iPod and iPhone, are helping bring new customers to existing computer products. The fact that Apple is not dependent on the Windows Vista operating system hasn’t hurt either.”
Despite some network hiccups, Apple sold over 1 million iPhones during the first three days of its release last month. Along with the first iPhone, Apple has sold over 7 million units since last year. A shortage of supply this summer—at Apple retail stores and AT&T Wireless franchises—amidst heightened media coverage have also contributed to the perceived popularity of the smartphone.
Auto Industry Woes Continue
Meanwhile, the customer satisfaction at the “Big Three” automakers of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are slipping.
“The problem for domestic companies is that they now lag further behind their foreign counterparts,” said Fornell. “This is not going to be helpful as the Big Three will lose more pricing power and be forced to continue dependence on rebates and discounting …”
On Tuesday, GM announced that it would again offer employee pricing discounts on most unsold 2008 and some 2009 model year vehicles. The promotion coincides with the company’s 100th anniversary. GM utilized the same strategy three years ago to boost sales. The first promotion in 2005 enabled a hefty jump in truck and SUV sales.
Mark LaNeve, GM North America VP of Sales, called the deal a “phenomenal offer for consumers.”
While the promotion takes aim at cash-strapped consumers, experts predict that such heavy discounting may dilute the reputation of U.S. automakers and hurt GM’s profits. It is uncertain whether Chrysler and Ford will follow the same discount strategy.
Japan’s Toyota Motor Co. took the top spot in customer satisfaction among automobile manufacturers.