Detroit three climb quality rankings

Cadillac, Lexus top satisfaction survey
Grace Macaluso, The Windsor Star Published: Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Detroit Three are closing the quality gap with Asian competitors,
according to a University of Michigan survey of customer satisfaction. "It's encouraging that we see this big jump from Detroit," Claes Fornell, director of the survey and the National Quality Research Centre at the university, said Tuesday. "We don't see it with the Koreans or the Japanese; some of the Europeans are improving as well. So that means they're trying harder, they're providing presumably pretty good service and high quality, and consumers are starting to recognize that."
General Motors Co.'s Cadillac joined Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus in the top ranking among auto brands in the university's survey of customer satisfaction. The luxury divisions each scored 89 out of 100 points in ratings, with Cadillac rising four points from a year earlier to reach the top spot for the first time since 2003. Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury and Volkswagen AG's namesake brand tied for biggest improvement. Chrysler lagged Ford and GM, with all of its Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands scoring average or below average in the survey. However, its overall rating improved over last year with a four per cent increase.
Mary Gauthier, spokeswoman for Chrysler Canada, said the survey reflects the company's "tremendous progress on quality. "Even our internal metrics confirm we are operating under the best quality in the company's history. We have seen our warranty claims reduced by 30 per cent over the past 12 months, and I can add that even though this is great progress, we continue to work toward seeing improvements."
Fornell notes that the Detroit Three's customer base is shrinking, although that is not necessarily a bad thing. "It's going to be easy for them to manage a smaller customer base because it's going to be easier to keep that base happy," he said. "In the past, Detroit had a vast, very diversified group of customers that they never really could satisfy -- at least not to the extent that the foreign carmakers could. So, they always had some difficulty keeping up by using various price promotions that would cut into their margins even further. This was a completely untenable situation, so they've sort of begun to turn the corner."
The positive results could not have come at a more crucial time for the Detroit companies, particularly Chrysler and GM, which are trying to reinvent themselves following their U.S. bankruptcy filings, said Fornell. "I think if we had had the opposite results, then the game would be nearly over," he said.
"Now, is this going to be enough to turn things around? No. There are many things they have to do, but if they don't satisfy their customers then it's going to be hopeless. 09423
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