Strategic Vision Puts Toyota, Honda On Top

October 10, 2005

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.

 

At least the giant automaker did do better than its cross-town rivals. Ford had just one segment winner, the F-Series pickup, and Chrysler Group had none. Gorrell said the research data showed consumers liked many Chrysler products, but found operating costs high and trade-in values too low.

 

Honda also had four segment winners, two trucks and two cars, and was the top-rated full-line corporation in this year’s study. The Odyssey minivan did especially well, but so did the Element crossover. Gorrell said he expects Honda to do well again in the coming year with the launch of its next-generation Civic.

 

BMW was the strongest of the European brands, buoyed by its new 3-Series and the Mini Cooper. Nissan scored with two segment winners, while Subaru, Kia and Audi each took one segment. Hyundai didn’t capture any individual segments, noted Gorrell, but it did take second and third in a number of categories, and the Korean maker was well-received on a variety of factors, not just low cost.

 

Indeed, discounting can actually work against a manufacturer, Gorrell stressed, which is why the Big Three did not enjoy any benefits from their hefty incentives. One reason is that these givebacks tend to dilute brand value. They also hurt residual – or trade-in – values.

 

The Total Value Index surveyed over 69,000 2005 new-vehicle buyers who purchased their vehicles during the October 2004 to March 2005 time period. Buyers were asked an extensive array of questions about their complete ownership experience including buying, owning, and driving their new vehicles. 

 

2005-Model Winners

Categories

Winner(s)

TVI score

Small Car

Scion xA

791

Small Multi-Function

Scion xB

770

Medium Car

Nissan Altima

791

Medium Multi-Function

Chevrolet Malibu Maxx

742

Large Car

Kia Amanti

773

Small Specialty under $25k

MINI Cooper

803

Small Specialty over $25k

BMW 3-Series Coupe

767

Near Luxury Car

BMW 3 Series

790

Luxury Car - 3 way tie

Lexus GS

Lexus LS430

Acura RL

778

777

777

Luxury Multi-Function

Audi A4/S4 Avant

743

Convertibles under $30k

MINI Cooper

891

Convertibles over $30k

Cadillac XLR

774

Minivan

Honda Odyssey

719

Small SUV

Honda Element

763

Medium SUV

Toyota 4Runner

721

Medium Crossover

Nissan Murano

733

Large SUV

Chevrolet Tahoe

716

Near Luxury SUV

Lexus RX330

763

Luxury SUV

Lexus GX470

772

Compact Pickup

Subaru Baja

753

Full-Size Pickup

Ford F-150

721

Heavy Duty Pickup

GMC Sierra 2500/3500

708

Best brand (Multi product)

Scion

778

Best corporation (full line)

American Honda

739

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