Sunday, November 05, 2006

Survey puts GM vehicles at top

Monday, October 09, 2006
Survey puts GM vehicles at top
Honda still rates as best brand overall; Toyota falls behind in Strategic Vision poll.
Sarah Karush / Associated Press

DETROIT -- Toyota Motor Corp. lost some ground to the competition in an annual vehicle value survey released today.

Honda Motor Co. held onto its overall ranking as the best full-line automaker, while General Motors Corp., which won in four segments, was the only domestic automaker with any top-ranked vehicles.

Toyota, which had seven segment winners in 2005, took only three categories in this year's study by Strategic Vision Inc. Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Co. gained ground, with its Kia Optima taking the top spot for medium car, the Hyundai Azera winning for larger car, and the Kia Sedona ranking as the top minivan. The Hyundai Tucson tied with GM's Saturn Vue for top-ranked small sport utility vehicle.

San Diego-based Strategic Vision surveyed more than 64,000 people who purchased new vehicles from October 2005 to March 2006. Participants were questioned after 90 days of ownership. The study, separate from Strategic Vision's quality survey, tries to capture whether consumers believe they got their money's worth and factors in emotional components.

Honda took top honors in the small car category for the Civic and in the compact pickup segment with the Ridgeline. The Accord Coupe was the top mid-specialty car, and the Pilot was the top medium crossover SUV.

"One thing about Honda that is just really clear: They have the strongest brand equity of any brand out there," said Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision's automotive research group.

Honda has also done an excellent job at innovation, Edwards said. He cited the Ridgeline, which is more expensive than other compact pickups but has features such as a folding rear bench seat and a tailgate that can open either by folding down or by swinging open like a door. Such features, combined with Honda's "perceived reliability and durability," help boost the brand's value, Edwards said.

Toyota is a close second when it comes to brand equity among current owners of the company's vehicles and has done a better job than Honda at using its image to win new buyers, Edwards said. But Toyota has been moving slower than other brands when it comes to innovation, he said.

Edwards said Toyota must be careful not to become complacent.

"Everybody is looking at them and asking, where are they weak?' " he said.

GM, in addition to its tie for small SUV, had segment leaders with the Chevrolet Corvette (small specialty over $25,000), the Corvette convertible (convertible over $30,000), and the Chevrolet Silverado (heavy-duty pickup).

Edwards praised GM for focusing on improving its products and taking steps to wean itself from incentives, which erode a brand's value.

Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group had no winners in any of the categories.

Segment Winners

Strategic Vision Inc., a San Diego-based marketing research company and consultant to automakers, released Monday the results of its annual vehicle value survey.
The survey questioned more than 64,000 new vehicle owners about their experiences and whether they believe they got their money's worth. The study includes emotional responses to vehicles.
The top performers by segment:
-- Small car: Honda Civic
-- Small multifunction: Scion xB
-- Medium car: Kia Optima
-- Medium multifunction: Mazda6 Wagon
-- Larger car: Hyundai Azera
-- Near luxury car: BMW 3--Series
-- Luxury multifunction: Audi A4/S4 Avant
-- Luxury car (three--way tie): Lexus LS 430, Acura RL, Audi A8
-- Small specialty under $25K: Mini Cooper
-- Small specialty over $25K: Chevrolet Corvette
-- Mid--specialty: Honda Accord Coupe
-- Convertible under $30K: Mini Cooper Convertible
-- Convertible over $30K: Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
-- Minivan: Kia Sedona
-- Small SUV (tie): Saturn Vue, Hyundai Tucson
-- Medium crossover SUV: Honda Pilot
-- Medium SUV: Nissan Xterra
-- Large SUV: Nissan Armada
-- Near luxury SUV: Lexus RX 330
-- Luxury SUV: Mercedes GL--Class
-- Compact pickup: Honda Ridgeline
-- Full--size pickup: Nissan Titan
-- Heavy--duty pickup: Chevrolet Silverado
-- Best model: Mini Cooper
-- Most improved brand: Honda
-- Best corporation (overall): Honda Motor Co.
Source: Strategic Vision Inc.

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