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Strategic Vision Puts Toyota, Honda On Top


 

Toyota Motor Co. handily dominated Strategic Vision’s tenth annual Total Value Index, which is designed to measure which cars, trucks and crossovers provide the best value for the dollar. But while Toyota captured the most individual product segments, Honda was the top-rated, full-line automaker.

 

But Honda fared poorly with its Accord Hybrid. In fact, the new study provides a warning to automakers that U.S. motorists expect significant real-world mileage gains from hybrids – an area where several models, including the Accord, fall short.

 

General Motors was the only one of the domestic Big Three to stand tall in the latest survey by the California market research firm, Strategic Visions. But considering the automaker’s broad product range, GM still lagged well behind the best of the imports.

 

“It’s more bad news for Detroit,” said Strategic Vision’s chief analyst, Dan Gorrell. The Big Three simply aren’t delivering the same mix of product styling, performance, quality and high trade-in values that propelled Toyota and Honda to the top of this year’s chart, he explained.

 

The various Toyota brands captured first place in seven separate product segments. These included three trucks and three cars. Among the latter were two products from Toyota ’s youth-oriented Scion division, the Scion xA and xB models.

 

Until recently, Toyota has had trouble connecting with young American buyers, but with Scion, said Gorrell, the automaker is beginning to repeat the success it scored with young Baby Boomers 30 years ago. “Scion is doing what it set out to do – which is to reinvigorate the Toyota brand,” stressed Gorrell.

 

Data for the 2005 Total Value Study (or TVS) was collected early this year, prior to the run-up in fuel prices, but it already indicated an increasing interest in fuel economy among American buyers. Toyota’s Prius hybrid-electric vehicle was rated the most “delightful” model in terms of fuel economy, followed closely by the Civic Hybrid and Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI diesel. In fact, diesels scored extremely well in the study, better than some hybrids.

 

The Accord Hybrid, “was considerably down the list,” noted Gorrell. “If you’re going to delight consumers, you’re really going to have to deliver good mileage with a hybrid,” he added, a pointed reference to the fact that in real-world driving, the Accord and several other hybrids are delivering far less fuel economy than claimed.

 

A critical message from this year’s TVI is that increasingly savvy motorists want it all: performance, comfort, mileage, quality, long-term reliability and high trade-in values, among other attributes.

 

Detroit manufacturers fell down in several areas, Gorrell pointed out, including resale values and with many models, operating expenses.

 

General Motors did field four segment winners, Malibu Maxx, Cadillac XLR, Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Sierra 2500/3500. But for a company with so much product, Gorrell suggested GM should aim to do even better in the future.


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