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Lexus Tops Consumer Satisfaction List : Autos: The Toyota division is the first Asian maker to lead J. D. Powers’ survey, replacing Mercedes-Benz, which slipped to No. 5.

From Times Wire Services

For the first time, an Asian auto maker tops a key industry survey of car buyer satisfaction with dealerships and sales people.

The Lexus Division of Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. replaced Germany’s Mercedes-Benz, according to the survey by the J. D. Power & Associates market research organization.

The sales satisfaction survey compiled questionnaires received from 36,000 car buyers and 8,600 light truck buyers who had owned their vehicles for three months or less.

It checked owner opinions about, among other things, the attitude of dealership employees and the condition of their vehicles at delivery.

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Following Lexus in the top five were General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac Division, Infiniti from Nissan Motor Co., Lincoln cars from Ford Motor Co. and Mercedes-Benz, the leader for the past four years.

Results of J. D. Power surveys frequently are used by auto makers in their advertising. Auto makers pay hundreds of dollars apiece for complete results of Power surveys.

The Agoura Hills-based marketing company ranks the models on a scoring system that it developed. The system computes an industry average, and the company never releases rankings of cars coming in below the industry average.

The company said its survey measures three key elements: the salesperson, initial product condition and the actual delivery of the car to the consumer.

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Lincoln moved up from sixth place last year into the top five because it improved in all three areas of sales satisfaction, Power said. Mercedes-Benz, which had finished with the top score for four consecutive years, dropped 13 index points from its 1990 level. Mercedes’ dip was caused by declines in all three areas of sales satisfaction.

Buick tied with Saturn for sixth place.

“The sales process is where customer satisfaction begins. Its importance in setting the stage for the overall ownership experience cannot be overestimated,” said J. D. Power III. “Saturn’s impressive debut . . . indicates that its determination to keep customers satisfied in the price segment they compete in is paying off, because their younger customers are typically more critical of all sales personnel.”

The survey received responses from owners of 38 different car makes and 18 truck makes.

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The light truck list was led by Ford, followed by Oldsmobile, Pontiac, GMC and Chevrolet tied with Dodge.

Top Cars The Lexus SC400

Here are the results of a survey of car buyers’ experiences with their dealerships and new-vehicle condition as compiled by the J. D. Power & Associates market research firm in Agoura Hills. The company compiled responses from 33,000 recent car purchasers. The company ranks only the vehicles exceeding industry average.

1. Lexus

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2. Cadillac

3. Infiniti

4. Lincoln

5. Mercedes-Benz

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6. Saturn

(tie) Buick

8. Oldsmobile

9. Mercury

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10. Jaguar

11. Saab

12. Chrysler

(tie) Ford

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14. Porsche

15. Toyota

16. Honda


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