Providing vehicle owners with a highly satisfying service experience may have a considerable impact on customer retention, according to the J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? 2010 UK Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study (VOSS) released today.

The study finds that vehicle owners who are highly satisfied (satisfaction scores of 900 or above) with their service experience are four times more likely to return to that dealer, compared with less-satisfied vehicle owners (scores of 800 or lower). In addition, an increase in satisfaction with the dealer may lead to increased revenue, as vehicle owners who are highly satisfied with dealer service are four times more likely to consider the dealer and brand when they purchase a new vehicle.

“If dealerships want vehicle owners to return, it’s crucial to make sure there’s a focus on customer needs and that the repair work is completed correctly the first time,” said Martin Volk, senior research manager at J.D. Power and Associates. “It’s clear that providing a highly satisfying service experience may have a considerable impact on a dealer’s bottom line.”

The study also finds that vehicle owners who indicate that they received an outstanding vehicle ownership experience are three times more likely to purchase the same vehicle make than are less-satisfied customers.

The study measures customer satisfaction with dealer service based on evaluation of 67 attributes grouped in four key measures. In order of importance, they are: vehicle appeal (37%), which includes performance, design, comfort and features; vehicle quality and reliability (24%); ownership costs (22%), which includes fuel consumption, insurance and costs of service/repair; and dealer service satisfaction (17%).

Lexus ranks highest in satisfying new-vehicle owners for a 10th consecutive year, with a score of 846 on a 1,000-point scale. Lexus performs particularly well in three of the four key measures: vehicle quality and reliability; vehicle appeal; and service satisfaction. Rounding out the highest-ranked five nameplates are Honda (825), Jaguar (818), Mercedes-Benz (817) and Toyota (814).

“Rising to the top of the manufacturer’s ranking in ownership satisfaction requires a concerted customer focused approach throughout the vehicle life cycle, from the product concept stages to servicing customers during the ownership period,” said Volk. “Earning industry-benchmark status year after year demands an in depth understanding on how to match and further exceed customer expectations in an ever-changing and challenging environment within the automotive industry.”

At the model level, Lexus, Honda and Toyota each capture two awards. The Lexus RX (SUV) and IS (compact executive car); Honda Jazz (small car) and Accord (upper medium car); and Toyota Aygo (city car) and Yaris (small car) each rank highest in their respective segments. Also receiving segment-level awards are the Kia cee’d (lower medium car); Mazda MX-5 (sports car); and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class (MPV).

While a majority of brands have increased in satisfaction compared with 2009, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Nissan all improve considerably—up 19 points, 24 points and 14 points, respectively. In addition, Jaguar improves considerably from 2009—up 13 points—and performs particularly well in vehicle appeal and service satisfaction. The Jaguar XF also ranks highest in the executive/luxury car segment.

“It’s a fantastic performance from Jaguar and great news for the brand,” said Steve Fowler, editor of What Car? “It’s also great to hear that the XF, which we made our Car of the Year in 2008, has gone on to please owners enough to make it the top car in its class.”

The 2010 UK Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study (VOSS) is based on the evaluations of more than 17,000 online interviews from UK car owners after an average of two years of ownership. The study was fielded in December 2009 and January 2010.

The annual J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? study gives consumers access to reliable and accurate information about many vehicle models, and helps manufacturers provide high levels of satisfaction to their customers. More comprehensive study results are published exclusively in the July issue of What Car? on sale Thursday, June 3, 2010.