- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008

The answer to a question often depends on the way the question is asked. That’s one lesson drawn from two separate studies that measure vehicle quality.

J.D. Power and Associates published its Initial Quality Study while rival Strategic Vision announced its Total Quality Study winners. Both the IQS and the TQS ask owners about their experiences after the first 90 days of ownership. The similarities end there, as do most of the results, since neither company defines “quality” in quite the same way.

J.D. Power’s survey of more than 81,500 owners ranks the top three winners in each vehicle segment classification. Strategic Vision’s survey of more than 20,600 consumers announces one winner in each segment. The top vote getters in both surveys are listed at the end of this report.

Only three vehicles were tops in their segments (light-duty trucks) in both surveys: Lexus RX, Toyota Sequoia and Chevrolet Silverado.

In the Strategic Vision survey, Toyota and Ford tied for leading in most segments with three vehicles each. Mercedes, Honda and Chevrolet each led in two categories.

One of the findings in this year’s TQS relates to Ford’s performance. “Ford is back, establishing its vehicle quality in the hearts and minds of its customers,” according to Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision’s automotive design.

In the J.D. Power survey, Honda led in three segments — the most of any brand in the study. Chevrolet, Dodge, Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz had vehicles that captured the top award in two segments.

The picture is also different when it comes to the brand rankings in the two studies. These are the top brands in the J.D. Power IQS:

cPorsche.

cInfiniti.

cLexus.

cMercedes-Benz.

cToyota.

cMercury.

cHonda.

cFord.

cJaguar.

cAudi.

In Strategic Vision’s TQS they are:

cBMW.

cHummer.

cMercedes-Benz.

cAudi.

cInfiniti.

cLexus.

cLand Rover.

cCadillac.

cLincoln.

cVolkswagen.

The reason for these differences is that the survey companies study different things.

The J.D. Power IQS measures “things gone wrong” and captures problems that owners experience in two categories: design and defects.

For example, manufacturing defects include engines that don’t start or navigation systems that don’t work. Design problems involve controls or features that are working as designed, but are hard to use or confusing to the driver.

Although a design problem, such as a confusing air conditioning system, may not seem as problematic as a manufacturing defect, such as a car breaking down, consumers have told J.D. Power that they are.

While Strategic Vision’s TQS also looks at “things gone wrong,” it also factors in the importance of things that went wrong. The biggest difference from the IQS, however, is that TQS asks buyers to rate all aspects of the ownership experience including “things done right,” including what goes on at the dealership and the buyer’s experience with owning and driving the vehicle.

J.D. Power gets at many of those same aspects of ownership but they are done in several other survey programs.

The winners in the J.D. Power survey are: Honda Fit, Civic and CR-V; Mazda MX-5 Miata; Mercedes-Benz CLK- and E-Class; Infiniti EX and M; Lexus LS and RX; Chevrolet Malibu and Silverado; Pontiac Grand Prix sedan; Dodge Durango and Dakota; Toyota Sequoia; Lincoln Navigator; and Ford E-Series.

The winners in the Strategic Vision survey are: Toyota Yaris, 4Runner and Sequoia; Scion xB; Volkswagen Jetta; Mercury Sable; Volvo C30 T5; Chrysler 300C; Mercedes-Benz S-Class and SL; Ford Edge, Mustang convertible and F-250/350 heavy-duty pickups; Chevrolet Corvette convertible, Avalanche and Silverado; Honda Odyssey; Hyundai Santa Fe; Lexus RX 350; Land Rover LR2; BMW X5; and Honda Ridgeline.

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