Here’s the latest victory for Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. The auto manufacturer — which makes Fiat, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles — got the highest marks in a new consumer survey. VW Group of America and General Motors tied for second place overall (last year VW was No. 1 and GM came in third).
Research firm Strategic Vision’s 20th annual Total Quality Index, a survey of 46,000 U.S. car buyers, probes consumers’ initial satisfaction with nearly every aspect of their vehicles, including instrument panel layout, seat comfort, engine performance and more. The data is then calculated on a 1,000-point scale.
The results: Fiat Chrysler topped the list of global auto manufacturers, scoring 859 out of a possible 1,000. “FCA got high marks for quality, styling, fun and performance,” says Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision.
At the brand level, Tata’s Land Rover placed first with a score of 894, while FCA’s Ram truck brand won best for non-luxury with a score of 865. At the model level, the Mini Cooper Roadster rated No. 1 (935).
Recently, J.D. Power released its latest initial quality study, with Kia No. 2 just behind Porsche, and Hyundai No. 4 behind Jaguar. JD Power measures only problems; Strategic Vision contends that its survey is more meaningful because it also measures what consumers like about the cars and their overall satisfaction.
“These days, [vehicle] problems are really insignificant,” says Edwards. “The impact of a problem—if a person gets a dealer to fix it quickly—usually doesn’t get counted. It’s the perception of quality that is more important. We also factor in the relative severity of a problem—a loose wiper blade is different from a transmission issue. Our research shows that a small problem handled in a fantastic way often becomes a positive. Tesla is one of the worst when it comes to things gone wrong, but things gone right—they are off the charts.”
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two surveys’ findings had to do with Hyundai. Although the Korean automaker won JD Power’s top quality award for a non-luxury brand, the company fell in Strategic Vision’s rankings from 4th in 2014 to 6th place in 2015. And at the model level, the Hyundai Sonata fell from its 2014 rank of 9th in the mid-size car category to 15th this year. Meanwhile, its sibling, the Kia Optima, took second place both years. “Although the Sonata had fewer problems than its competitors once again this year, it failed to impress buyers with the strong cues of quality that the preceding model had,” Edwards says.
Other category winners:
Small Car: Mazda3 (873)
Small multi-function car: Fiat 500 (867)
Small hybrid/electric car: Fiat 500e (856)
Mid-size car: Subaru WRX (869)/Kia Optima (868)
Mid-size hybrid/electric car: Honda Accord Hybrid Sedan (853)
Full-size car: Dodge Charger (902)
Near-luxury car: Mercedes CLA (892)/Lincoln MKZ (891)
Near-luxury hybrid/electric car: BMW i3 (879)
Luxury full-size car: Mercedes S-Class (910)
Luxury multi-function car: BMW 3-Series wagon (908)
Entry-level SUV: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (869)
Mid-size SUV: Dodge Durango (876)
Full-size SUV: GMC Yukon XL (892)
Luxury SUV: Cadillac Escalade (909)/Range Rover Sport (907)
Minivan: Honda Odyssey (852)
Standard pickup truck: Chevrolet Colorado (857)
Full-size pickup: Nissan Titan (879)