Quality Magazine

U.S. Automakers Closing Quality Gap

November 1, 2006
MILWAUKEE, WI-Despite rising vehicle costs and gas prices, consumers are giving the auto industry its highest perceived quality rating in a decade, according to the Quarterly Quality Report, released by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

"The increases in this quarter's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) results indicate a stronger focus on improving customer service by both the auto and personal computer sectors," says Jack West, ASQ spokesperson and the author of the Quarterly Quality Report. "In the auto industry, Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda continue to exploit their competitive distinction in engineering and innovation, while the bigger surprise is that U.S. brands like General Motors and Ford's quality improvement processes are beginning to close the gap with their import competitors."

The ASQ Quarterly Quality Report expands on the most critical components of the ACSI scores released-perceived quality of the goods and services measured by the ACSI. This quarter's Quality Report focuses on customers' perceived quality of the goods and services provided in manufacturing durables-autos, personal computers, major appliances and electronics-and e-business.

This quarter the auto industry's perceived quality score as measured by the ACSI stands at 87, bringing it back to its highest level since the second quarter of 1995.

Overall quality perceptions for the industry historically have been stable despite a number of economic challenges. Still there are a few stand-out brands such as the GMC division of General Motors, which this quarter experienced the highest increase in perceived quality.

U.S. brands are making progress in closing the quality gap. However, only domestic luxury brands Buick and Cadillac rank with the reigning quality leaders including Toyota, Honda and BMW. Hyundai wins for the best turnaround story with long-term gains of 12.7% over the past decade.

"Although Hyundai is a latecomer to the dance, the brand has been steadfast in applying a simple but effective two-pronged quality process," says West. "In addition to its intense focus on consumer input, Hyundai emphasizes process improvement to refine problem areas such as its electrical systems and automatic transmission design. Another contributing factor may be that Hyundai continues to offer the best warranty in the industry."

ASQ's Quarterly Quality Report is an analysis of customers' perceptions of the quality and reliability of products and services. The report is based on data generated by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The ACSI reports on different industry sectors each quarter, and is produced by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business in partnership with ASQ and CFI Group, with e-commerce sponsor ForeSee Results. To view the entire Quarterly Quality Report, visit www.asq.org/quality-report/.