Following only the Japanese luxury brand Lexus, the Czech car maker Skoda came second in a newly published UK car owner satisfaction study. However, the brand showing the greatest improvement over last year's study was this year's third-place holder, Mazda.
The J.D. Power and Associates/WhatCar? Magazine '2004 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Study' put Lexus at the top of the car-owner customer satisfaction rankings for its fourth year in a row, having achieved the highest score recorded in the report's 11-year history - an overall satisfaction score of 878 (up 17 index points over its 2003 score).
Jumping two rank positions since 2003, Skoda followed Lexus in second place with 852 index points (up 16 points over 2003), and Mazda ranked third, having increased 38 points to 845.
Overall customer satisfaction across the UK has increased by three index points, with Japanese brands in general remaining the most satisfying to own. Of the top 20 models, 14 are manufactured by Japanese companies, with the Honda Jazz ranking as the most satisfying car overall.
While Mini was included in the study for the first time, satisfaction with many British and other European brands remains well behind most Japanese competitors. Vauxhall, however, is one UK manufacturer to buck that trend: the UK's second-largest brand has improved three times faster than the industry average since 2001, representing the most significant improvement by a brand over this period.
Commenting on the study's results, Dave Sargent, director of European operations for J.D. Power and Associates, said, "While the performance of Lexus continues to impress, Skoda's emergence as one of the top-ranked manufacturers is a surprising success story to many, considering its image just a decade ago. However, the study does show a disappointing performance from some European brands, which still have some way to go to compete with the levels of customer satisfaction enjoyed by owners of most Japanese car brands."
The 2004 study was based on responses from more than 23,000 owners of '51' and '02' registration vehicles (sold from August 2001 to July 2002), after an average of two years on the road, and covering 33 brands and 120 models.
The study found that overall customer ratings for vehicle quality and reliability fell for the first time since 2001 (dropping 5 index points). "The proof of any car's performance is in feedback from its owner, and it's worrying that car owners are less happy with the quality and reliability of their cars than they used to be," said Rob Aherne, editor of What Car? magazine. "Carmakers should certainly take these kinds of fluctuations seriously in order to meet their customers' expectations."
However, the overall rating for vehicle appeal increased by 8 points and both ownership costs and service satisfaction ratings improved by 7 points.
The annual study aims to help manufacturers provide their customers with higher levels of satisfaction, and to give consumers access to reliable and accurate information about as many different vehicles as possible.