J.D. Powers Initial Quality Survey Contradicts Strategic Vision

Who makes the highest quality cars? Well that depends on which research company you investigate? And what exactly does quality refer to? Reliability, recalls, interior fit and finish or perceived quality, panel gap widths or exterior welds? All are quality issues and each will negatively or positively affect a vehicles quality rating, depending on the format used to accumulate the data.

Strategic Vision (SV), a California based research company, recently released its annual Total Quality Index, ranking BMW first among brands and Volkswagen the top multi-line automaker.

SV surveyed over 31,000 buyers at least 90 days after their purchase of a 2003 model that they bought between October and November of last year. The TQI rating system is based on a combination of expectations realized, general quality, emotional attributes such as styling as well as the dealer experience before, during and after the sale.

Following a pattern that goes back decades, imports continue to overshadow the domestics in most quality tests, but according to Strategic Vision General Motors are showing the most improvement of the Big 3. New owners gave GM top ratings in three segments and helped it tie in a fourth. In a comeback Ford, four years since achieving a first place position, beat out the rest of the manufacturers in two segments.

The SV rating system incorporates survey information gathered from new vehicle buyers, virtually the same source used by J.D. Powers & Associates for determining its Initial Quality Survey (IQS) winners and losers.

With the J.D. Powers survey in mind, BMW, which to reiterate came first in the SV survey, also rates very high at 8th place out of 36 automakers. Still it should be noted that Lexus, Cadillac, Infiniti, Acura, Buick, Mercury and Porsche finished ahead of the Bavarian brand, in that order.

Volkswagen, placing first among multi-brand automakers in SVs survey, rated all the way down in 24th place in the J.D. Powers IQS when surveyed as a specific brand, tied with Korean manufacturer Hyundai. To be fair its Audi division placed 14th, ahead of Mercedes-Benz.

Just like the J.D. Powers IQS, Cadillac took the second spot of SVs TQI survey, showing impressive consistency. That puts it ahead of Lexus, the IQS winner. Cadillac was also the most improved brand comparing this year to 2002 survey results.

Honda took top prize for Japanese multi-segment automakers, sweeping three categories. Infiniti scored its first points with its G35 winning the near-luxury car category while Subarus Baja took best compact pickup and Toyota tied the Kia Sorento with its all-new 4Runner. Hyundais Santa Fe won the best small SUV class, an impressive feat.


Among small cars Saturns ION placed first in the best small car category while the MINI Cooper won best small specialty coupe.


Of note, almost defunct brand Oldsmobile scored top marks with its Aurora, tying its sibling Pontiac Bonneville in the best midsized car category.