Once a leader, Volkswagen is near the bottom in customer satisfaction

The ongoing diesel-emissions scandal undoubtedly did damage to Volkswagen's reputation in the United States.

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    Emblems of VW Golf VII car in a production line at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany.
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The ongoing diesel-emissions scandal undoubtedly did damage to Volkswagen's reputation in the U.S.

But how does one quantify the scandal's impact on consumer perception of the VW brand?

One possible measure is the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Automobile Report, which charts consumer attitudes toward different automotive brands.

In the recently-released 2016 Automobile Report, Volkswagen's score dropped from 80 out of 100 in 2015 to 78 this year—bringing it down to among the lowest of the brands surveyed.

The survey asked consumers to evaluate their experiences with the different brands, focusing mostly on the cars themselves but also on other factors such as the buying experience, ease of use of automaker websites, and responsiveness to warranty claims.

VW tied with Dodge and Jeep and just barely surpassed Acura which, with a score of 76, was the worst-rated brand.

Sibling brand Audi—which is also implicated in the diesel scandal—fared somewhat better.

The luxury brand's score improved from 78 in 2015 to 83 in 2016.

Certain A3 TDI models are included in the settlement that received preliminary approval from a Federal judge last month.

If the settlement receives final approval, owners will be able to sell their cars back to Volkswagen, or have them modified to meet emissions standards if and when said modifications are approved by regulators.

In addition, the Audi A6, A8, and A8L TDI sedans, A7 TDI hatchback, and Q5 and Q7 TDI SUVs are part of the group of 85,000 3.0-liter V-6 cars for which no settlement has been reached so far.

The decline for the Volkswagen brand came during a year in which overall customer satisfaction increased for the 24 brands surveyed.

In general, satisfaction with cars increased from 79 out of 100 in 2015 to 82 in 2016.

Of the brands surveyed, 16 achieved customer-satisfaction increases, and only five declined outright.

The top-rated brand was Lincoln, with a score of 87, followed by Honda (86) and BMW (85).

Some smaller brands—including Tesla and Porsche—were not included in the survey, as ASCI believes their smaller presence in the marketplace could lead to lack of consumer familiarity that may skew results.

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