Watch CBS News

The most hated car in America

Among America's car buyers, one brand in particular is on the outs.

That honor belongs to Fiat, the car brand owned by Fiat Chrysler (FCAU), according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, an independent national benchmark of consumer experiences of products and services sold to U.S. consumers.

Fiat Chrysler, formed by the merger of the Italian car maker Fiat and the American automaker Chrysler, has several brands that win little respect from consumers, including Jeep and Dodge, the survey found. Overall, Americans are less in love with their cars than they were a year ago, with declines in satisfaction most likely tied to a record number of recalls and rising prices.

10 of the safest cars you can buy
10 of the safest cars you can buy

"More defects point to quality issues, and customers perceive the quality isn't up to the standards that they had seen in past years," David VanAmburg, ACSI's director, said.

The auto industry recalled nearly 64 million vehicles last year because of safety issues, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said earlier this year. Among the largest recalls were those from General Motors, which recalled about 27 million vehicles, followed by Honda (8.9 million vehicle recalls) and Fiat Chrysler (at 8.8 million recalls).

"While we haven't seen the results of this year's ACSI survey, Fiat has done very well recently in similar studies that measure customer satisfaction and vehicle quality," Fiat Chrysler said in a statement emailed to CBS MoneyWatch. "Several FIAT models just earned top honors in the 2015 J.D. Power U.S. APEAL Study and Strategic Vision's 20th Annual Total Quality Index."

Across the board, consumers rated their satisfaction with their cars at 79 points out of 100, or a decline of 3 percentage points from a year earlier. Among the brand names that saw declining consumer satisfaction were Honda, GM's Chevrolet, and Fiat Chrysler's Jeep.

Why are consumers feeling pressure on car prices? VanAmburg points out that automakers heavily discounted vehicles or offered incentives in the recession and recovery years, as a way to get consumers through the showroom doors.

Made in the USA: 7 of the best cars made here
Made in the USA: 7 of the best cars made here

"We're seeing a return to normalcy," he notes. "The economy has improved somewhat. Automakers don't have to show quite as much love on the price side."

Interestingly, the cars that held up best among consumers' perceptions are the luxury brands, with Toyota's Lexus holding steady at 84 points and Honda's Acura rising to 83 points from 77 a year earlier, making those brands the first and second most-liked high-end cars with consumers.

Fiat vehicles haven't scored very well with reviewers, either. The U.K.'s Car magazine said the Fiat 500 provides "little" for enthusiasts, adding that the "ride is nothing special." The rear row is best designed for toddlers, with even school age children likely to feel cramped, the reviewer added.

The ACSI asks consumers about their experiences with cars that they bought about six months to three years prior to the survey, which means many of those car owners may be expressing the joys -- and dings -- of owning particular brands. Because of that, consumers who are considering buying a new car may want to add the survey's longer-term trends into their decision-making, VanAmburg said.

"Look at the trends over time," VanAmburg said. "This is a phenomenon with Chrysler that goes back since we've been doing this really, showing that they've hovered near the bottom. That means something."

Below is a list of the ACSI's 2015 ratings for car brands, ranked from top to bottom, with their parent company and customer-service scores.

1. Lexus (Toyota) -- 84
2. Acura (Honda) -- 83
3. Lincoln (Ford) -- 83
4. Mercedes-Benz -- 83
5. BMW -- 82
6. Subaru -- 82
7. Toyota -- 82
8. Hyundai -- 81
9. Buick (GM) -- 80
10. Cadillac (GM) -- 80
11. Honda -- 80
12. Mazda -- 80
13. Volkswagen -- 80
14. Chevrolet (GM) -- 79
15. Ford -- 79
16. Volvo -- 79
17. Audi (Volkswagen) -- 78
18. GMC (GM) -- 78
19. KIA -- 78
20. Infiniti (Nissan) -- 77
21. Dodge (Fiat Chrysler) -- 76
22. MINI (BMW) -- 76
23. All other brands -- 75
24. Jeep (Fiat Chrysler) -- 75
25. Chrysler (Fiat Chrysler) -- 74
26. Fiat (Fiat Chrysler) -- 73

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.