Quality isn’t always measured the same way, or so one might surmise from the results of the latest annual Total Quality Index that puts Fiat Chrysler in the industry lead.
The trans-Atlantic automaker was the top manufacturer for the first time since the study was launched in 1995, according to California automotive research firm Strategic Vision, and FCA products ranked at the top of the class in six of 27 individual vehicle categories.
The results come in sharp contrast to the findings of other recent surveys, such as the widely followed J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, where FCA was one of the bottom-ranked makers overall – Fiat the last among 33 brands and Chrysler ranked at 31st.
Officials at Strategic Vision counter that “counting problems” is no longer an effective way to measure quality, pointing out that even the worst brand is likely to experience just over one such complaint per vehicle.
“In 1997, only 15% of all car brands had less than a half-a-problem per vehicle, with a few ‘delinquent’ brands having more than two problems per vehicle. In 2015, 100% of all brands had less than half-a-problem on average per vehicle,” said SV President Alexander Edwards, adding that for the typical owner, a lot of other things influence the perception of quality.
The Total Quality Index, or TQI, takes into account 155 different aspects of an owner’s experience, according to the research firm, including impressions about design, performance and features. It comes down to “love for the product,” suggested SV Senior Vice President Chris Chaney.
By that measure, FCA came out on top, with a score of 859 out of a possible 1,000 points. It was followed closely behind in a tie by Volkswagen and General Motors, each scoring 858.
“It’s hard to not be in admiration of the turn-around achieved by FCA (Chrysler) company employees,” wrote Chaney, in a summary of the 2015 TQI.
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With only a handful of models, the Fiat brand landed two segment winners with its little 500 and 500e battery-car. On the American side of the company, the Dodge Durango, Charger and Challenger models took honors, along with Jeep Wrangler. The Ram division, meanwhile, was tops among non-luxury brands.
The Mini Cooper Roadster, however, was the single-highest scoring vehicle among the hundreds of models included in the study. Mini and parent BMW also had six segment winners, the Bavarian brand taking honors for, among others, the new i3 electric city car and its big X5 utility vehicle.
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There were some other surprises in the 2015 TQI, including the fact that the slow-selling Nissan Titan took honors as top full-size pickup truck.
The new Chevrolet Colorado, meanwhile, bested established players such as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier in the compact pickup segment.
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Land Rover, another maker that typically lags industry average when purely counting problems, was named the best luxury brand in the new study.
Here’s a complete rundown of the winners:
- Small Car: Mazda Mazda 3, 873 points
- Small Multi-Function Car: Fiat 500, 867
- Small Alternate Powertrain Car (APT): Fiat 500e, 856
- Midsize Car: Subaru WRX/Kia Optima, 869/868
- Midsize APT Car: Honda Accord Hybrid Sedan, 853
- Full-Size Car: Dodge Charger, 902
- Near-Luxury Car: Mercedes-Benz CLA/Lincoln MKZ, 892/891
- Near-Luxury APT Car: BMW i3, 879
- Luxury Car: Mercedes-Benz S-Class, 910
- Luxury Multi-Function Car: BMW 3-Series Wagon, 908
- Specialty Coupe: Dodge Challenger/Mini Cooper Countryman, 895/893
- Premium Coupe: Hyundai Genesis Coupe, 919
- Standard Convertible: Mini Cooper Roadster, 935
- Premium Convertible/Roadster: Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, 929
- Standard Pickup: Chevrolet Colorado, 857
- Full-Size Pickup: Nissan Titan, 879
- Heavy Duty Pickup: GMC Sierr 2500/3500, 864
- Entry SUV: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, 869
- Entry CUV: Buick Encore/Volkswagen Tiguan, 858/858
- Midsize SUV: Dodge Durango, 876
- Midsize CUV: Nissan Murano/Ford Flex, 865/864
- Full-Size Utility: GMC Yukon XL, 892
- Near-Luxury Utility: BMW X4, 896
- Luxury SUV: Cadillac Escalade/Range Rover Sport, 909/907
- Luxury CUV: BMW X5, 885
- Minivan: Honda Odyssey, 852
- Best Model: Mini Cooper, 935
- Best Brand, Non-Luxury: Ram, 865
- Best Brand, Luxury: Land Rover, 894