April 9, 2012 at 7:53 AM ET
Volkswagen of America delivers the most value-packed new-vehicle product line among all automakers for 2012, followed closely in overall marks by Hyundai Motor America and Ford Motor Company, according to the results of a study by the research company Strategic Vision.
While as in recent model years the two top-rated carmakers in the 2012 Total Value Index survey remain imports, domestic brands, specifically Ford and General Motors, now command a majority of top picks in specific model categories. “An important ‘time marker’ in this year’s study is that for the first time in over 10 years American manufacturers lead the number of Total Value winners with 11 segment leaders,” says Chris Chaney, Strategic Vision’s vice president and head of automotive research. “This is an important milestone toward the ‘domestic comeback.’”
For its part, General Motors took top segment positions with such models as the midsize Cadillac CTS and CTS Coupe, Chevrolet Corvette sport coupe, the full-size GMC Yukon SUV and the Chevrolet Volt extended range electric vehicle. Ford boasted category leaders with the midsize Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Mustang Convertible, the seven-passenger Flex crossover SUV and the F150 and F250/350 pickup trucks.
For the first time, four hybrid and electric-powered models were cited by Strategic Vision as being top values in their respective categories, including the Chevrolet Volt, Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Leaf and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Strategic Vision attributes their recognition to wider marketplace acceptance and desirability for alternative-fuel vehicles, along with the perception that they are becoming better values as fuel prices continue to rise.
“Even though the median price of a Chevy Volt was $43,000, owners believe that for every dollar spent, they got more than did buyers of other vehicles,” says Strategic Vision president Alexander Edwards. “Customers had tremendous value appreciation for Volt’s technical innovation, warranty, standard equipment and certainly fuel economy.”
Among upscale vehicles, so-called “smart luxury” cars that deliver value for the money as well as certified brand cache dominated the segment leaders in Total Value Index scores. These include such models as the Audi A8 sedan and Q7 sport-utility vehicle, BMW Z4 roadster and the Volvo C70 convertible and XC60 crossover SUV.
“Smart luxury is the new trend for those segments that are premium, but within the reach of more customers who appreciate innovation, an exceptional array of standard equipment and present a strong value-equation,” says Chaney. “You will be hearing about smart luxury more and more in the near future, even if the economy takes sure-footed positive steps.”
Strategic Vision’s Total Value Index ratings are computed on a 1,000-point scale. They’re based on extensive owner surveys that consider 442 separate new-car attributes, including a vehicle’s negotiated transaction price, standard equipment, fuel economy, warranty, reliability, resale value and operating costs and various aspects of customer satisfaction. Also noted is a model’s degree of technical innovation which, to quote the company’s news release, “must be impactful, intuitive and true to what owners desire.”
The company claims its Total Value Index study is the most inclusive in the industry, perhaps to the point of sounding a bit intrusive. “In addition to vehicle perceptions, we know what political party the owner claims, their personal media habits and hobbies, as well as what ethnicity they claim,” Chaney explains.
Perhaps at some point they’ll let us know what models, say, Republican Irish Catholic Facebook users who collect cookie jars are driving these days.
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