When an automaker’s reputation for quality crashes, it takes a painfully long time to convince car buyers the problem is fixed. But a recent customer satisfaction survey of 18,000 British drivers by consultancy J. D. Power and Associates rated Mercedes the “most improved” brand. The survey weights vehicle quality and reliability at 30% and ownership costs at 19%, among other factors such as general satisfaction.
Ok, in total points Mercedes ranked only 12th, below guess who — Lexus — as well as Honda, Toyota, Audi, Mini, Volvo and BMW, and others. But it’s moving in the right direction. “Mercedes-Benz has made impressive strides over the past two years, with major improvements in vehicle quality and dealer service making a strong impact on satisfaction with overall ownership,” says Frank Parisi, director of European automotive research at J.D. Power.
Mercedes’ owners are likely to pummel me with irate comments and examples of their buggy Benzes. Bring it on (it’s always interesting to hear.) But I’ll be that Mercedes will continue to climb in the consumer survey charts. I’ve been to Stuttgart and management is determined to root out quality problems that erupted in the early 2000 era when Chrysler went off the rails. They are about two years into the cure, so the results are finally starting to show.
The other top honors in the UK survey went to Prius, which tied for best model with the Lexus IS. It’s the first time a hybid wins such an accolade. My guess is the Prius won’t be able to power its way up the French and German charts as easily. But we’ll see as those consumer satisfaction surveys are published in the coming weeks. The Germans have not fallen out of love with their high performance cars.
Final kudos go to Skoda, which ranked No. 3 in the UK satisfaction survey. Owner Volkswagen is getting things right at Skoda, from its appealing design to roomy interiors and moderate pricetags. It’s a German-built car at Czech prices. If Volkswagen’s new management can get the same kind of magic sauce working with VW’s next generation of models, watch out Toyota.