The most notable improvement from 2010 has occurred in the service satisfaction factor, while modest increases have also occurred in the vehicle appeal and ownership costs factors.
"It is particularly encouraging that satisfaction with ownership costs has improved during a year that has witnessed record fuel costs, increased insurance premiums and greater competitive price pressure for dealerships," said Brian Walters, senior director of European automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "In many respects, this indicates that automakers have been able to protect their customers from direct internal cost pressures."
Lexus ranks highest in satisfying new-vehicle owners for an 11th consecutive year, with a score of 845 on a 1,000-point scale. Lexus performs particularly well in three of the four key measures: vehicle quality and reliability; vehicle appeal; and service satisfaction. Following in the rankings are Honda (833) and Jaguar and Skoda, in a tie (825 each).
At the model level, Honda receives two awards for the Accord (upper medium car) and Jazz (small car). Also receiving awards are the BMW 5 Series (executive luxury car, in a tie); Citroen C3 Picasso (MPV); Lexus IS (compact executive car); Mercedes-Benz E-Class (executive luxury car, in a tie); Skoda Octavia (lower medium car); and Toyota Aygo (city car).
Overall satisfaction has improved in each vehicle segment, compared with 2010. In particular, the MPV segment improved more than any other segment in the product appeal and quality and reliability factors.
"It's great news that people are more satisfied with their cars than ever, and it proves that car makers are getting things right more often," said Jim Holder, magazine editor of What Car? "Yet again Lexus tops the study with outstandingly reliable cars and dealer back-up that is truly exceptional. Brands at the other end of the spectrum must work hard to win back customer support."
The study also finds that customer expectations for vehicle ownership satisfaction have been steadily rising during the past decade. In particular, owners have become more critical of design elements within their vehicles, are increasingly willing to shop around for service, are less tolerant of quality issues and are placing more importance on the overall appeal of their vehicles. According to Walters, this makes it critically important for brands to differentiate their products and service experiences in ways that meet and exceed customer expectations time after time.
"While the new-vehicle market in the UK is expected to contract further during the next several years, the number of models in the market is expected to increase," said Walters. "In 2008, buyers in the UK had approximately 250 models to choose from. This is expected to grow to more than 340 in 2015. As customer choice expands, so does switching behaviour in the market. Therefore, it is paramount for brands to provide a compelling case for the shrinking pool of customers to stay with their products and services in the future."
The 2011 UK Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study (VOSS) is based on the evaluations of more than 16,500 online interviews from UK car owners after an average of two years of ownership. The study was fielded in December 2010 and January 2011.