Survey Says Luxury Car, SUV Buyers Are Most Satisfied


Buyers of luxury cars and top-end sport-utility vehicles, such as the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and the Lincoln Navigator, are happier with their vehicles than other new-car owners, while Kia and Hyundai buyers are the least satisfied shoppers, according to a new rating system unveiled Wednesday by AutoPacific Inc.

The Santa Ana consulting firm’s finding that pickup truck and SUV buyers are among the most satisfied owners is likely to add fuel to a growing debate over SUVs, pickups and minivans. While they account for more than 40% of all new vehicles sold, they are coming under criticism for poor fuel economy and the damage they can inflict in collisions with cars.

The survey also demonstrates that auto dealers can contribute significantly to buyer satisfaction. For example, Saturn, which stresses service and no-pressure selling, finished fifth of 37 car brands in overall satisfaction. But the models dropped to 20th place when dealership and pricing factors were removed and buyers rated only their satisfaction with the vehicle.


Unlike other ratings, AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Score leans heavily on car buyers’ passion for the product.

Thus, the always reliable Honda line finished in the middle of the pack, behind brands such as Volkswagen and Jaguar that have not been strong finishers in quality surveys but attract very enthusiastic buyers.

All else being equal, said AutoPacific President George Peterson, “a basic transportation car won’t do as well as a car with a strong image” in the firm’s ratings.

AutoPacific based its rankings on responses from 26,000 car buyers to 50 questions about the 1998 models they purchased and the financing programs and the dealerships they used.

The top five vehicles were the Mercedes SUV, Lexus’ LS400 sedan, the Mercedes S-Class sedans, the Cadillac Seville sedan and the Mercedes CLK coupe.

The bottom five, of 184 rated, were the Mazda Miata, (Mazda has introduced an all-new version since the study was done); the Hyundai Accent, the Ford Econoline Van, the Chevrolet Metro subcompact and, last, the Isuzu Hombre compact pickup.