Czech carmaker Skoda was ranked second after Lexus in the JD Power and Associates/WhatCar? magazine 2004 car customer satisfaction study, released on Tuesday.
 
Lexus topped the chart for the fourth year running and achieved the highest score ever in the report’s 11-year history with an overall satisfaction score of 878, an increase of 17 index points on 2003.


Jumping two positions since 2003, Skoda followed Lexus in second place with 852 index points, an increase of 16 points on last year’s results. Mazda, which made the most significant improvement in customer satisfaction since 2003, ranked third overall, increasing 38 points to 845.
 
Overall customer satisfaction across the UK increased by three index points with Japanese brands in general remaining the most satisfying to own. Of the top 20 models, 14 were manufactured by Japanese companies, with the Honda Jazz (Fit) ranking as the most satisfying car overall.


While BMW’s UK-built Mini brand was included in the study for the first time, satisfaction with many British and other European brands remained well behind most Japanese competitors. GM subsidiary Vauxhall was, however, one local manufacturer to buck this trend. The UK’s second-largest brand has improved three times faster than the industry average since 2001, representing the most significant improvement by a brand over this period.
 
Dave Sargent, director of European operations at JD Power and Associates, said: “While the performance of Lexus continues to impress, Skoda’s emergence as one of the top-ranked manufacturers is a surprising success story to many, considering its image just a decade ago.


“However, the study does show a disappointing performance from some European brands, which still have some way to go to compete with the levels of customer satisfaction enjoyed by owners of most Japanese car brands.”
 
The 2004 study was based on a survey of more than 23,000 owners of ’51’ and ’02’ registration vehicles, after an average of two years on the road and covered 33 brands and 120 models. Owners provided detailed evaluations of their vehicles and dealers, covering 77 attributes, grouped into four factors of satisfaction.


The 2004 study found that overall customer ratings for vehicle quality and reliability fell for the first time since 2001, dropping five index points.


What Car? Editor Rob Aherne said: “The proof of any car’s performance is in feedback from its owner, and it’s worrying that car owners are less happy with the quality and reliability of their cars than they used to be.


“Carmakers should certainly take these kinds of fluctuations seriously in order to meet their customers’ expectations.”