Toyota ranks highest in satisfying vehicle owners in Mexico, despite having been in this market only since 2002, according to the JD Power and Associates 2004 Mexico Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study.

Respondents were interviewed in Mexico’s three largest auto markets – Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey – and were asked to evaluate their experiences during the first 6 to 24 months of ownership.

The inaugural study, which is based on interviews conducted with 3,577 owners of new 2002 and 2003 model-year vehicles, presents automotive manufacturers and consumers for the first time with an objective measure of vehicle ownership satisfaction in Mexico. Overall owner satisfaction is based on customer experiences with their vehicle in four measure areas: vehicle quality and reliability; vehicle appeal (which measures satisfaction with the design, style, performance and comfort of the vehicle); dealership service (which measures satisfaction with the dealer service department); and ownership costs.

Toyota ranks highest overall among high-volume makes, performing particularly well in the areas of ownership costs and vehicle quality and reliability. Honda, which entered the Mexican market in 1995, closely follows Toyota in the rankings, performing particularly well in the areas of vehicle appeal and service satisfaction.

“The fact that Toyota and Honda, two relative newcomers to the Mexican market, have already made a strong impact on owners illustrates the highly competitive nature of the automotive industry in Mexico,” said Steve Witten, executive director of automotive research at JD Power. “Increasing competition and product proliferation, overcapacity and changing customer expectations are just a few of the issues that have altered the competitive landscape of the Mexican automotive market.”

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The high-volume industry average score for vehicle ownership satisfaction is 687 out of a maximum of 1,000 index points. Following Toyota and Honda in the rankings above the industry average are Pontiac, Jeep, Nissan, Chrysler, Dodge and Renault, respectively.

Levels of satisfaction with vehicle quality and reliability, on average, tend to be higher than for the other three areas measured. With an industry average of 742, the vehicle quality and reliability score is significantly higher than ratings given for vehicle appeal (729), service (680) and cost of ownership (612). However, despite higher scores in this area, the majority of owners (61%) indicate they had one or more problems with their vehicle, while 35 percent experienced three or more problems.

“Based on our automotive customer satisfaction measurements conducted globally, we’ve seen time and again that satisfaction has a very powerful impact on both brand loyalty and advocacy,” said Witten. “Brands with customer satisfaction levels below industry average tend to be negatively impacted by brand degradation, greater reliance on customer conquesting and higher marketing expenses. Particularly in the Mexican market, there is still significant room for improvement and an untapped opportunity to achieve marketplace differentiation in all areas of ownership satisfaction.”