Lower customer satisfaction with domestic cars and trucks could hurt the comeback of Detroit automakers, according to the analyst behind the American Customer Satisfaction Index released today.

Overall, the industry's score improved 1.2 percent to 83 out of 100, according to the index's annual auto comparison. The index is based on customer evaluations.

Detroit automakers lost ground a year after the Lincoln and Buick brands surged to the top in the 2010 index with the help of incentives, reported The Detroit News.

Ironically, Japanese automakers now relying on incentives in the wake of recalls are improving their scores.

"Japanese automakers are determined to recapture recent losses in market share," said Claes Fornell, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. He created the ASCI in 1994. Fornell took the index private in 2009.

"It used to be Detroit that was forced to use buyer incentives to compensate for its weaker customer satisfaction. Now, with the Japanese using discounts in addition to their strong customer satisfaction, Detroit will probably have no choice but to respond in kind," Fornell said.

In the index, Toyota and Lexus ranked as top nameplates along with Cadillac. Four of the six nameplates that declined were domestic: Lincoln, Buick, GMC and Chrysler. Among Japanese and Korean brands, all but Mazda improved.

Ford Motor Co. ranked highest among domestic carmakers, scoring an 85; General Motors Co. followed with an 84. Both companies slipped 1 percent from a year ago.

Chrysler Group LLC is below the industry average with a score of 78. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and Mazda are at the bottom of the index.

The Big Three had closed the gap in the last two years but a rebound by Asian brands is erasing that, said David VanAmburg, ASCI managing director in Ann Arbor.

With incentives, Asian automakers "are beating Detroit at its own game," he said.

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