Paul A. Eisenstein: Toyota snubbed in new study
In an unexpected setback, Toyota didn’t field a single winner in the new Total Value Index from California market research firm Strategic Vision.
The study, which looks at factors such as joy of ownership and the overall owner perception of value – not just quality and reliability – revealed what the firm’s officials describe as a “revolution” in the automotive marketplace. With so many different products to choose from, “customers no longer feel constrained to consider only the ‘usual suspects,’” said Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision.
Balancing those factors brought to the fore some brands that normally score below industry average in quality-focused studies. Brands such as Mini, Saab and Chrysler each won one product category.
But the top performers were Volkswagen and Ford, the latter being named Most Improved Brand and Corporation.
The German importer has struggled to maintain its market share in recent years but hopes to more than double U.S. sales to 800,000 annually by 2018. While they are promising to resolve recent quality problems, VW officials have made it clear they intend to differentiate themselves by emphasizing the fun-to-drive attributes of their products.
Notably, the coupe-like VW CC sedan was not only winner in the full-size/larger car category, it also was the highest-ranked vehicle in the entire study, with a score of 846 points. The German marque’s Jetta and Passat models tied in the midsize car segment, with the Jetta Wagon capturing the midsize multi-function category. The Tiguan took honors in the small utility segment. VW’s luxury arm, Audi, won the luxury utility category with the Q7.
Ford also posted five winners, ranging from the Mustang Convertible, declared best convertible, to the F250/F350 truck, which was the No. 1 heavy-duty pickup.
Honda took four categories, including best minivan, with the Odyssey, and best small car, with the Insight hybrid. Chevrolet and Mercedes-Benz each captured two segment honors, the domestic maker fielding the best full-size pickup with the Avalanche and premium coupe with the Corvette. The German marque’s R-Class was declared best luxury multi-function vehicle, and the S-Class overwhelmed the competition in the luxury car segment.
Other single-segment winners included not only Hyundai and BMW but several other brands that typically fare below average – sometimes down near the bottom – in studies focused exclusively on quality or reliability, such as Mini, Saab and Chrysler.
While the Honda Insight took honors among competitors in the small cars segment, SV Vice President Christopher Chaney cautioned: “People will not buy hybrids in larger numbers until they have all their demands/needs met and ‘the math.’” That equation, he cautioned, depends not only on delivering great fuel economy at a great price, but also the sort of driving experience people will love.
Paul A. Eisenstein is an award-winning journalist who has spent more than 30 years covering the global auto industry. His work appears in a wide range of publications worldwide, and he is a frequent broadcast commentator on subjects automotive.
The Total Value Index
The Total Value Index is based on responses from 48,228 motorists who purchased their 2009 model-year vehicles between September 2008 and March 2009.
- Small Car: Honda Insight
- Mid-Size Car: Volkswagen Jetta Sedan, Volkswagen Passat Sedan
- Luxury Car: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
- Convertible: Ford Mustang Convertible
- Minivan: Honda Odyssey
- Large Utility: Ford Expedition