U.S. cars make big move up in survey, Cadillac leads

The University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index measures a broad spectrum of products, including cars and light trucks. The New York Times got an advance copy of the results and they are good for U.S. car companies.

According to the Times,"in the rankings by brand, General Motors' Cadillac tied for first place with its chief competitor, Lexus, while Buick and Lincoln-Mercury placed third and fourth, meaning that domestic brands accounted for three of the top four." The results may surprise many because of the trouble Detroit has had during the last year. The head of the survey said the domestic car ratings may be helped because their dissatisfied customers have already moved to other brands.

The bad news from the survey is that if Detroit's rating are up because unhappy customers migrated elsewhere, what happens if they begin to gain market share? Will this end up causing another wave of unhappy customers? The comments of the head of the survey imply that this could be true. If the research was skewed by the defections to foreign manufacturers, the improvements for Detroit are a mirage.

Detroit has a larger problem. With the downsizing of GM and Chrysler, domestic car companies may never pick up market share -- they might only have a few customers, but those customers will sure love their American cars.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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