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June 3, 2003

USA: Minor bugs don’t matter if total ownership experience is good – survey

New vehicle buyers determine quality by the whole ownership experience, not just parts, San-Diego based research firm Strategic Vision said as it released the results of its 2003 Total Quality Index (TQI), that measures the complete ownership experience, including the emotions generated -- the same criteria it said that buyers use to measure quality. Problems reported in other indices didn't keep owners of vehicles such as the Mini Cooper (912 out of 1000 possible) and the Hummer H2 (902) from rating them highly.

By bcusack

New vehicle buyers determine quality by the whole ownership experience, not just parts, San-Diego based research firm Strategic Vision said as it released the results of its 2003 Total Quality Index (TQI), that measures the complete ownership experience, including the emotions generated — the same criteria it said that buyers use to measure quality.

Problems reported in other indices didn’t keep owners of vehicles such as the Mini Cooper (912 out of 1000 possible) and the Hummer H2 (902) from rating them highly.

“Minor problems detract little,” said Strategic Vision president Darrel Edwards, “when the overall experience, and especially the emotional response, is so positive.”

Though import brands headed the majority of segments, the US car manufacturers, particularly General Motors, are making gains. New vehicle buyers rated GM tops in three segments with a tie in a fourth. Ford, after four years out of the winners’ circle, won in two segments.

BMW remained the highest scoring brand, while Cadillac moved into second place, ahead of Lexus and Mercedes. Compared to full-year 2002 results, it was the most improved brand. “People who buy Cadillac today are really pleased with their products,” said Strategic Vision vice-president Daniel Gorrell. “Now the task is to convince non-owners to take a look.”

New vehicles top-rated by surveyed buyers in their respective segments included the Saturn Ion [a car mostly panned by magazine and website critics], Chrysler PT Cruiser, Pontiac Grand Am, VW Golf, Honda Accord, Oldsmobile Aurora, Pontiac Bonneville, Mini Cooper, Honda Accord Coupe, Infiniti G35, BMW 5 series, Mercedes Benz S-Class, Ford Mustang, Porsche Boxster, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Toyota 4Runner, Ford Excursion, Volvo XC 90, Range Rover, Subaru Baja and Chevrolet Avalanche 1500.

Among the Japanese makers, Honda was the only multi-segment winner with three. The Infiniti G35’s top honours in the near-luxury car category were the first for the brand, Subaru led one segment, and Toyota managed a tie for top spot in one category with its redesigned 4Runner.

Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia continue to improve, especially their newer products. Both won sport utility segments and all Hyundai vehicles, except the Accent, were above their segment averages. The XG 350 mid-size sedan outscored its Volkswagen Passat and Toyota Camry rivals.

Despite gains by the US brands, Volkswagen remained the top-scoring full-line corporation, followed by Honda, Nissan and Toyota. At 932, the Porsche Boxster was the highest rated model.

TQI measures satisfaction as consumers define it: the whole experience of buying, owning and driving a new vehicle. “Our goal was to measure quality as new vehicle owners define it,” added Edwards, “and that meant the index had to be as complex as are people, specifically new vehicle buyers.

“At the heart are measures of the values and feelings that drive decision-making. These are the key to what buyers really want. Recognising this hierarchy of emotions brings consumer needs clearly into focus.”

Strategic Vision surveyed more than 31,000 October-November buyers of 2003 models at least 90 days after their purchase. TQI is then calculated from the responses in a complex correlation of expectations, emotions, and attributes.

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