According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, although customer satisfaction remained the same for the second quarter of this year, following two straight quarters of improvement, household spending should not weaken. The ACSI, which held steady at 73 (out of a possible 100), measured customer satisfaction levels this quarter in manufacturing durables (automobiles, personal computers, household appliances and consumer electronics) and e-business (Web portals, search engines and news sites). Professor Claes Fornell, director of the University of Michigan Business School's National Quality Research Center, which compiles and analyzes the quarterly ACSI data, says that an obvious relationship exists between spending and the resulting satisfaction of the spender. It shows up, he says, in the correlation between the ACSI and government statistics on personal spending. For the third year in a row, the automobile industry matched its record-high score. In fact, the industry average has always stayed within a three- point range, from 78 to 80. BMW, Buick and Cadillac once again scored highest with a mark of 86, while several car brands, including Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Hyundai, registered the lowest scores, all at 78, according to the index. Mazda and DaimlerChrysler's Jeep division showed an improvement of 4 percent with ACSI scores of 81 and 79, respectively. In contrast, scores for Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai declined by the same percentage. Fornell says that while the overall ACSI score for automobiles has not changed much over time, the difference between the highest-scoring and lowest- scoring automakers has shrunk from 18 points in 1994 to just eight points today.