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Tops in Quality Toyota Still Lags in New Survey

VW, Ford, Chrysler lead in "Things Gone Right."

by on Aug.27, 2012

The Chevy Volt proves a surprise winner in the midsize segment, according to the 2012 TQI.

As it has so often over the years, Toyota is coming out tops in the new Total Quality Index – at least when measured according to the least problems per vehicle – what is often referred to as “Things Gone Wrong,” or TGWs, inside the auto industry.

But that’s only one way to measure things, cautions Alexander Edwards, president of the California-based consulting firm, Strategic Vision.  Consumers don’t just look at what’s wrong, he stresses.  They’re also looking for the features that surprise and delight – like an unusually powerful engine, better-than-expected fuel economy, or a well-appointed interior.

When you add in those factors which are commonly referred to as “Things Gone Right,” or TGRs, the picture is quite different, and Volkswagen surges to the top of the 2012 Total Quality Index.  Perhaps equally surprising, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler tie for second by that measure.

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“This is ultimately, how people think about vehicles and spend money,” stressed Edwards, echoing a growing sense in the industry that with most makers now delivering near-perfect out-of-the-box quality those manufacturers who can delight the customer who will eventually win out.

That has been a particular challenge for Toyota.  Though the maker has traditionally been a leader in terms of quality and reliability it has lagged on the TGR scale.  Not a single Toyota, Lexus or Scion-branded vehicle topped its segment in the latest Total Quality Index.

“It is an area we are focusing more on, driven by our President, Akio Toyoda,” noted Mark Templin, general manager of Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus.

Volkswagen and Chrysler, by comparison, have generally lagged in the middle to back of the pack in terms of Things Gone Wrong, but have often scored well in terms of surprise-and-delight factors.  Ford has generally improved its quality, in recent years.  Where it has taken hits is in terms of the usability of its high-tech infotainment technology, such as MyFordTouch.  Ironically, the same system might score poorly in TGW-focused studies while doing extremely well on those that look at Things Gone Right.

Five different VW products — the Eos, Golf and Tiguan and Audi A4 and A8 – topped their segments in the new Strategic Vision survey, which measured results from 45,390 people who purchased or leased a new vehicle during the last three months of 2011.

Ford captured three segments, with the big Flex crossover and its F-150 and F-250/F-350 pickups.

Chrysler, meanwhile, landed wins with the Fiat 500, Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

BMW had four segment wins, Honda had three, General Motors two, while Nissan and Land Rover each won one.

One of the biggest surprises was delivered by the Chevrolet Volt which took top honors in the highly competitive midsize segment, besting such stalwarts as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.  Though its sales were relatively minor, Volt overcame its high cost, scoring extremely well in terms of mileage and its interior quality cues.

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