Toyota's hybrid Prius tops satisfaction table

By From Reuters| May 11 2007
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For the first time, a hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, is the highest-ranking model in satisfying owners of new cars, according to an annual survey.

The Prius ties with the Lexus IS for top spot among models included in the study.

Other high scorers are Japanese models from Toyota, Honda and Lexus, although Skoda shows well, with the Octavia and Fabia ranking fifth and seventh overall.

The J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? magazine 2007 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) highlights a growing trend towards environmentally friendly cars.

The Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid car, with a part-petrol, part-electric engine, first went on sale in Japan in 1997 and has seen sales rise steeply in tandem with concern about the environment.

It received 868 index points on the survey's 1,000 point scale and earned particularly high ratings in ownership costs.

Prius owners are most satisfied with day-to-day operating costs and also report high satisfaction for vehicle quality, vehicle appeal and dealer service.

"The Prius clearly demonstrates that car owners think green is good," said Steve Fowler, editor of What Car? magazine. 

"We know that there's an increase in consumer interest in environmentally friendly cars here in the UK, and with the Prius topping the model rankings in the 2007 study, we may be seeing a trend emerging in people's thinking about these vehicles."

In the rankings of nameplates, or manufacturers, luxury Japanese brand Lexus ranks highest for a seventh consecutive year, receiving a customer satisfaction score of 862 points.

Lexus continues to receive particularly high ratings in three of the four key measures: quality/reliability, service satisfaction and vehicle appeal. Following Lexus in the rankings are Honda and Skoda in a tie at 845 points, Toyota (832) and Daihatsu (824).

Mercedes-Benz is the most improved maker in 2007, increasing 12 points from 2006. Other notable improvements include Citro?n, MG Rover and Land Rover.

"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 the overall ownership experience," said Frank Parisi, director of European automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.

The study is based on the evaluations of more than 18,000 British car owners after an average of two years of ownership and includes 33 brands and 113 models.

Owners provide detailed evaluations of their vehicles and dealers, which covers 77 attributes grouped in four measurements of satisfaction.

In order of importance, they are: Quality and reliability; vehicle appeal, which includes performance, design, comfort and features; dealer service satisfaction and ownership costs which include fuel consumption, insurance and costs of service/repair.

The top five models:

1. Toyota Prius (868 points)

2. Lexus IS (also 868)

3. Honda Jazz (864)

4. Lexus RX (854)

5. Skoda Octavia

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