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Car buyers most satisfied with Toyota, Honda

Toyota scored the most segment victories than any other car company and Honda was the overall winner in a survey of buyer satisfaction.
A "solar yellow" Scion limited-production xB Release Series 2.0 is shown here in New York. Only 2,500 units of the xB Release Series 2.0 are available at Scion dealers in the U.S.
A "solar yellow" Scion limited-production xB Release Series 2.0 is shown here in New York. Only 2,500 units of the xB Release Series 2.0 are available at Scion dealers in the U.S.Mark Lennihan / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Toyota Motor Corp.’s youthful Scion brand led the Japanese automaker to more segment victories than any other car company in a survey of buyer satisfaction. Honda Motor Co. was the overall winner, however, and General Motors Corp. was the top performer among U.S. automakers.

The Scion xA was the highest-ranking small car, and the Scion xB was tops in the small, multi-function segment, according to the results announced Monday by Strategic Vision Inc., a San Diego-based marketing research firm and consultant to automakers.

Toyota had seven segment winners overall, including two Lexus sedans and the Toyota 4Runner sport utility vehicle, but Scion owners gave the strongest responses in terms of their vehicles’ affordability, fuel economy, standard equipment and other factors. Strategic Vision’s automotive chief Daniel Gorrell said Scion is rejuvenating Toyota by giving buyers a sense of individuality and excitement.

“It has been cleverly positioned to speak to those emotions particularly appreciated by younger buyers,” Gorrell said. Scion has the youngest buyers in the industry, he said.

The survey, in its 10th year, questioned 69,000 buyers of 2005 model year vehicles between October 2004 and March 2005. Strategic Vision also publishes a quality survey, but the value survey encompasses emotional components and tries to capture whether owners feel they made a smart buy.

Honda, which had four segment winners including the Acura RL sedan and the Honda Odyssey minivan, got the best responses overall. Honda was strong on fuel economy, resale value and technological innovations, Gorrell said.

GM also had four segment winners: the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, Cadillac XLR, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Sierra 2500/3500. Ford Motor Co. had one, the Ford F-150 pickup, and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group had none.

That’s a different story from the 1990s, when Chrysler had numerous winners, Gorrell said. Chrysler has some current hits like the 300C sedan, but they’re not enough to offset customers’ concerns about reliability, durability and resale value.

GM’s Chevrolet Malibu Maxx did well in terms of affordability, fuel economy and standard equipment, while the Cadillac XLR did well on the luxury end of the market, with high marks for its technical innovations, warranty and overall owner experience.

Gorrell said U.S. automakers have hurt their brands’ value scores with incentives such as the employee-discount pricing they offered this summer. While incentives can boost soft sales, they’re generally associated with lower value.

“Given equal prices, most consumers would pick a vehicle from a manufacturer they trust first, although some still will be swayed by a lower price,” Gorrell said.

GM and Ford are trying to move away from incentives this fall and have lowered overall prices on some of their 2006 vehicles. Chrysler also has been trying that strategy, and is emphasizing the value of its vehicles instead of price in a new ad campaign.