Consumers are less satisfied with major manufactured goods this year than they were in 2000, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) produced by the University of Michigan Business School. Customer satisfaction with durable goods dropped by 0.9% between last year's second quarter and the same three months this year, falling to a score of 78.7 on a 100-point scale. That's down from 79.4 in the second quarter of 2000.

The national ACSI score, which represents 38 industries in nine sectors of the economy, dropped by only 0.1% between the first and second quarters this year to 72.1, but is down by 1% from the last year's second quarter.

The declines have been generally larger in manufactured durable goods, however. Between last year's and this year's second quarters, satisfaction in personal computers dropped by 4.1% to a score of 71, household appliances declined 3.5% to 82 and consumer electronics decreased by 2.4% to a score of 81. Of the durable goods included in the study, only automobiles held their own with an average score of 80 in this year's second quarter, the same as a year ago.

While European automobiles remain high on the consumer satisfaction list, some domestic vehicles scored well, opening a lead against Japanese competitors. GM's Cadillac leaped to the top of the list with the highest ACSI score of any automotive manufacturer at 88, up 2.3% over last year's second quarter score. Cadillac is followed by BMW, Buick and Mercedes-Benz, all with ratings of 86. Honda and Toyota occupy the next rung, with scores of 83; both were up 1.2% from the second quarter of 2000. Consumer ratings for Ford Lincoln-Mercury vehicles, meanwhile, slid by 3.5% to a score of 82. Four manufacturers ranked just a notch below that at 81, including South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co., which showed the biggest improvement of any auto manufacturer. The company's 6.6% surge to an ACSI score of 81 in this year's second quarter tops off a 19.1% improvement since the second quarter of 1995, when Hyundi occupied last place in the rankings with a score of 68.

In the household appliance industry, which has seen a 3.5% drop in customer satisfaction in the last year, Kenmore rates 86, four points higher than the industry average of 82. General Electric, Maytag and Whirlpool follow Kenmore with a score of 83.

Consumer satisfaction in the personal computer industry has dropped 4.1% in the last year. Dell, the leader in the survey, came in at 78, a 2.5% decrease from the previous year. Apple, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard have an ASCI rating of 73. Gateway experienced the biggest decrease from last year with a 6.4% drop.

The survey concludes that although PCs have improved in power, speed and range of application, there is no evidence that customer service has improved. Because as many as two-thirds of all PC purchases are replacement purchases as opposed to first-time buys, customer satisfaction and loyalty are becoming more important.