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Car quality rankings based on emotional impact, not complaints

Ford MyTouch system on Ford Edge

michael bettencourt The Globe and Mail

Late last month, Ford Motor's driver connectivity gizmos - Sync and the new MyFord Touch/MyLincoln Touch systems - proved an embarrassment of huge proportions.

Drivers were loudly and frequently complaining about the systems to the point where in the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study the Ford brand plunged to 23rd place in the 2011 study from fifth a year before. Lincoln dropped to 17th from eighth.

That was the really bad news. Now the good news, at least if you are Ford.

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Strategic Vision Inc. (SVI) says Ford is No. 2 for total quality, trailing only Volkswagen. Ford's Total Quality score (863) is impressive for a full-line manufacturer, says SVI. That rating puts Ford alongside Honda (862) and Nissan (862) and just behind Volkswagen, the industry leader in SVI's Total Quality Study.

Ford's best models are the Mustang coupe and convertible, Flex, and the F-Series pickups.

Darrell Edwards, founder and chairman of SVI, says Ford has received the same complaints about Sync in his company's study as J.D. Power heard in its IQS.

"Does that warrant their 'tumble' in some quality metrics?" he asks, rhetorically.

SVI's research suggests not. People do judge quality based on how many things break in a new vehicle, but there's more to vehicle quality than merely things gone wrong. Complaints matter, but so do the "things gone right" experiences that trigger new owners to fall in love with their new cars.

Sure enough, SVI's study found that Ford owners reported a higher percentage of complaints than the industry average (28 per cent versus 24 per cent). But designs, innovations and a good sales experience offset the problems.

It's the same story with Volkswagen, rated the best full-line auto maker. VW had three models (Golf, Jetta and Tiguan) rated best in class and the brand did well overall thanks to the appealing and functional design of its vehicles.

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"When customers explicitly state 'I love [this]about my vehicle,' it results in increased sales," says Alexander Edwards, SVI president. "We explicitly measure the emotional impact of each vehicle attribute and ask the customer what they 'love' about their vehicle."

Honda's top models were the Civic Hybrid, Accord Crosstour, Odyssey and Ridgeline. The Nissan Maxima led all large cars for Total Quality. At Chrysler, the redesigned Dodge Challenger and Jeep Grand Cherokee won their segments.

The SVI people also say the research suggests Land Rover and Jaguar are heading down the right road in the JLR restructuring and product remake. The new Jaguar XJ had the highest Total Quality score of any vehicle and the updated Land Rover LR4 led its segment.

Here are the segment leaders in Total Quality with the TQI score included:

Small car - Honda Civic Hybrid (881)

Small multi-function - VW Golf (871)

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Mid-size car - VW Jetta sedan (876)

Mid-size multi-function - Honda Accord Crosstour (889)

Large car - Nissan Maxima (888)

Near luxury car - Mercedes-Benz C-Class (903)

Luxury car - Jaguar XJ (929)

Specialty coupe - Dodge Challenger (901), Ford Mustang (899)

Premium coupe - BMW 1-Series (917)

Convertible - Ford Mustang (905)

Premium convertible/roadster - Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet (919)

Minivan - Honda Odyssey (860)

Entry utility - VW Tiguan (880)

Mid-size crossover utility - Ford Flex (886)

Mid-size traditional utility - Jeep Grand Cherokee (877)

Large utility - Toyota Sequoia (916)

Near luxury utility - Land Rover LR4 (923)

Luxury utility - BMW X6 (909)

Standard pickup - Honda Ridgeline (909)

Full-size pickup - Ford F-150 (906)

Heavy duty pickup - Ford F-250/350 (885)

**********

THE BRANDS

Volkswagen 881

Ford 863

Honda 862

Nissan 862

Industry average 861

General Motors 860

Toyota 854

Chrysler 853

Hyundai 852

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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