Americans are less happy with their cars and trucks than at any time in more than a decade, and it’s largely because they’re getting sick of dealing with recalls.
The 2015 American Consumer Satisfaction Index, an annual survey that involved 4300 consumers, found that satisfaction with automobiles dropped for the third straight year to the lowest level since 2004. High new-car prices also were a factor.
“While it is true that all cars are now much better than they were 10 to 20 years ago, it is alarming that so many of them have quality problems,” said Claes Fornell, chairman and founder of the survey.
Last year carmakers recalled a record 64 million vehicles for problems such as exploding air bags and ignition switches that can unexpectedly cause engines to stall. The problems can be deadly. So far General Motors has agreed to compensate families of 124 people who died in crashes caused by the faulty switches. Eight more people have died worldwide after being cut by shrapnel from exploding Takata air bag inflators.
Rising prices also contributed to the consumer frustration. Car prices are up 11 per cent since 2010 and hit records all year, rising to an average US$32,932 in July, according to the Edmunds.com auto website.
The index’s automobile satisfaction score this year dropped nearly 4 per cent to 79 out of 100. In 2004, the last time the score was that low, the industry set the previous annual record for recalled vehicles at 30.8 million. Of the 27 brands tracked in the index, 15 saw their satisfaction scores decline, while only Acura and BMW improved.
Foreign-based brands led the survey, with Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand on top at 84, followed by Acura, Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz, tied at 83. BMW, Subaru, Toyota, Hyundai, Buick and Cadillac rounded out the top 10. Fiat Chrysler’s Fiat brand had the lowest satisfaction score at 73.
Meanwhile, lawyers hired to compensate victims of General Motors’ faulty ignition switches have finished determining which claims are eligible, rejecting 91 per cent of them.
The reasons for the rejections varied, but in some cases the air bags inflated in the crash, an indication that the ignition switches were not at fault.
Last year GM recalled 2.6 million small cars because the ignition switches could slip out of the run position, causing the cars to unexpectedly stall, disabling the air bags and power steering and brakes.
The compensation fund has made offers in 124 death cases and 275 injury crashes. Of those, 325 were accepted, eight rejected and 65 haven’t decided. One injury claim was added to the eligible list in the past week.
Families of those who died will get at least US$1 million ($1.5 million). GM has set aside US$625 million to compensate people.
GM said in a filing with securities regulators that it had paid US$280 million to compensate ignition switch crash victims and their families as of July 17.
The company said it faces 181 wrongful death or injury lawsuits due to recalled vehicles in the US and Canada. -AP