Every year the Strategic Vision marketing firm surveys thousands of American drivers, asking them to rank their rides on hundreds of criteria like fuel economy, technological innovation, warranty, and expected resale value. This year's findings offer good news for hybrid and electric car manufacturers, and -- for the first time in more than ten years -- good news for Detroit, too.
Strategic Vision's 2011 Total Value Index is based on responses from 68,088 folks who purchased vehicles between September 2010 and June 2011. The company took its survey data and calculated the best-scoring models in each class and the best-scoring brands overall.
In terms of total brand score, Volkswagen came out on top. Strategic Vision's executive director, Dr. Darrel Edwards, explains that VW performed so well because it produces vehicles that offer good value at competitive prices: "You get so much for such a reasonable, affordable cost with short-term issues (like MPG, plus performance) and long-term issues (like expected dependability and even resale)". Hyundai came in second, and Ford rounded out the top three.
In terms of segment winners, though, something interesting happened: Detroit automakers walked away with 11 first-place rides, which was more than either Asian or European automakers could claim. In this study, Detroit hasn't bested its competitors from those parts of the world in over a decade.
Also interesting to note: hybrids and electric cars scored high with owners. In fact, four such vehicles landed at the top of their respective segments: the Chevrolet Volt, the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and the Nissan Leaf (though not, curiously enough, the Toyota Prius). Strategic Vision says this is an important development, because "the acceptance for more hybrid models is beginning to 'turn the corner' of general approval and even desirability".
That does, however, raise an interesting point about Strategic Vision's survey -- namely, that vehicles are rated solely by the people who own them. In other words, scores of the Chevy Volt were determined only by folks who've bought a Chevy Volt, scores of the Nissan Leaf were determined only by Leaf owners, and so on. That probably explains why those models -- which have a base of enthusiastic early adopters -- had two of the highest scores on the survey, despite selling in comparatively low volume.
For a complete look at Strategic Vision's winning models, take a gander at the list below, which is ordered by the top score in each segment. Note that even though the Honda Civic Hybrid placed at the top of the list in terms of total value, scores for the rest of the Honda fleet weren't enough to put the brand in the top three.
Small Car: Honda Civic Hybrid -- 812
Small Multi-Function: Nissan Leaf -- 807
Mid-Size Car: Chevrolet Volt -- 836
Mid-Size Multi-Function: Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen -- 761
Large Car: Volkswagen CC -- 798
Near-Luxury Car (statistical tie): Cadillac CTS Sedan -- 819
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid -- 817
Luxury Multi-Function: Acura TSX Wagon -- 802
Luxury Car: Audi A8 Sedan -- 816
Specialty Coupe: MINI Cooper Hardtop -- 826
Premium Coupe (statistical tie): Chevrolet Corvette Coupe -- 812
Cadillac CTS Coupe -- 810
Mid-Specialty: Honda Accord Coupe -- 798
Convertible: Ford Mustang Convertible -- 795
Premium Convertible Coupe (statistical tie): BMW Z4 -- 800
Volvo C70 -- 798
Standard Pickup: Honda Ridgeline -- 693
Full-Size Pickup: Ford F-150 -- 787
Heavy-Duty Pickup: Ford F-250/350 -- 733
Minivan: Honda Odyssey -- 734
Entry Utility: Hyundai Tucson -- 757
Mid-Size Crossover Utility: Ford Flex -- 763
Mid-Size Traditional Utility:Dodge Durango -- 761
Large Utility: GMC Yukon -- 755
Near-Luxury Utility: Volvo XC60 -- 781
Luxury Utility (statistical tie): Porsche Cayenne -- 780
Audi Q7 -- 779