Pushing past such rivals as Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac, Ford Motor Co.’s struggling luxury brand Lincoln was named the highest-ranked brand in the annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards by AutoPacific, Inc.
The announcement comes as Lincoln prepares to move ahead with a product roll-out plan designed to put itself back on the radar screen of luxury buyers who have largely written the brand off in recent years. Lincoln products, such as the MKZ sedan, also topped their individual segments in the annual VSA study which is based on responses by more than 92,000 people who purchased 2014-model cars, trucks and crossovers.
General Motors’ GMC truck brand, meanwhile, was named the most satisfying mainstream brand. In fact, Detroit makers took 12 of 23 individual product categories, though imports still led in such key segments as midsize passenger cars, premium luxury models and minivans.
The newly redesigned 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class was the highest-ranked of any individual model, according to AutoPacific, which noted that the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards are based on 50 separate attributes, such as design, interior comfort, performance and fuel economy.
“Vehicles that score highest in the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards are delivering value and satisfaction across a wide range of attributes,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific.
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The results of the VSA often stand in contrast to traditional, quality-based studies, such as the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey. Industry analysts, such as Peterson, note that with quality on the rise for all brands, it has become less of a brand differentiator. That means other factors, such as design or comfort, can have a much more significant impact on long-term satisfaction, as well as on brand loyalty – which translates into whether or not an owner remains with a manufacturer at trade-in time.
According to Peterson, about a third of all new vehicle buyers are positively influenced by the results of third-party studies, such as the VSA. In general, the vast majority of U.S. buyers now do extensive research online before heading to a showroom. That makes sense in a market where, AutoPacific notes, there are 274 models from 32 different brands to choose from.
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The Mercedes S-Class, noted Peterson, had the highest VSA score ever. The truck with the highest score in the 2014 study, meanwhile, was the BMW X5 Sport Activity Vehicle – which led the Premium Luxury Crossover/SUV segment.
In terms of multiple segment winners, Chevrolet came out on top, with four, while Lincoln captured three. BMW, GMC, Kia and Mercedes-Benz each led in two segments.
Lincoln jumped from 6th place to first to lead the 2014 VSA, while GMC jumped from 17th to 8th. Ford moved from 25th to 19th, while Chevrolet improved five spots, moving to 16th. Among the brands with the biggest declines, Jaguar fell from 7th to 17th, while Volkswagen tumbled from 16th to the 28th spot.
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The top-ranked vehicles, by segment:
- Premium luxury — Mercedes-Benz S-class
- Executive luxury — Lincoln MKS
- Aspirational luxury — BMW 3-series GT
- Mid-size luxury — Lincoln MKZ
- Large — Chevrolet Impala
- Mid-size — Kia Optima
- Premium compact — Mercedes-Benz CLA
- Compact — Kia Soul
- Economy — Chevrolet Sonic
- Sports — Chevrolet Corvette
- Sporty — Chevrolet Camaro
- Hybrid/electric vehicle — Lincoln MKZ hybrid
- Heavy-duty — Ford F-series Super Duty
- Light-duty pickup — GMC Sierra
- Luxury/large — Infiniti QX80
- Mid-size SUV — Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Premium luxury — BMW X5
- Luxury — Cadillac SRX
- Large — GMC Acadia
- Premium mid-size — Toyota Highlander
- Mid-size — Nissan Rogue
- Compact — Hyundai Tucson
- Honda Odyssey