The Lexus RX and Toyota’s hybrid car, the Prius, are the first and second ranking models in the J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? 2009 UK Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study (VOSS)SM released today.

The Lexus RX earns a score of 853 on a 1,000-point scale, with owners reporting particularly high satisfaction with the model’s quality/reliability and appeal as well as servicing at the dealership. Second-highest-ranked model, the Toyota Prius, performs well on running costs and vehicle quality/reliability.

“Sales of SUVs may be on the slide, but it’s clear that owners of the Lexus RX 4×4 would gladly recommend their car to others,” said Steve Fowler, editor of What Car? “Many of the RXs in the survey were hybrid models, and with the hybrid Toyota Prius in second place, it’s clear that environmentally friendly cars are hugely satisfying to own.”

In the manufacturer rankings, Lexus ranks highest for a ninth consecutive year, receiving a customer satisfaction score of 833. Lexus performs particularly well in two of four key measures: service satisfaction and vehicle appeal. Rounding out the top five nameplates are Honda (817), Mercedes-Benz (808), Škoda and Toyota (805 each).

At model level, Toyota captures two awards, the Toyota Prius (upper medium car) and Aygo (city car) each rank highest in their respective segments. Also receiving segment-level awards are the Honda Jazz (small car), Škoda Octavia (lower medium car), Audi A6 (executive/luxury car), Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class (sports car), Citroën Grand C4 Picasso (MPV) and Lexus RX (SUV).

“Lexus consistently delivers an exceptional ownership experience for customers in the UK,” said Susan Barnes, European automotive director at J.D. Power and Associates. “In these challenging times, satisfaction programmes could be well worth the investment. Incentive schemes for the automotive sector, such as the recently introduced scrappage programme, might boost vehicle sales in the short term, but a vehicle purchase which is made as a result of an exceptional experience should be the longer-term goal, especially when the incentive schemes come to an end.”

The study finds that satisfaction levels and brand loyalty are strongly linked, with more than 59% of highly satisfied customers reporting they “definitely will” consider buying the same vehicle make in the future. Conversely, only 18 percent of customers who report having a less satisfying experience intend to do the same.

“In a declining automotive market, keeping existing customers and gaining new ones becomes ever-more challenging,” said Barnes. “Providing an outstanding experience can make all the difference in keeping customers with the brand and helping towards a brand’s future economic success.”

The redesigned 2009 UK Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study (VOSS) is the successor study to the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) and is based on the evaluations of more than 15,700 online interviews from UK car owners after an average of two years of ownership. The study includes 29 brands and 101 models. Owners provide detailed evaluations of their vehicles and dealers, which cover 67 attributes grouped in four measurements of satisfaction. 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%).

J.D. Power and Associates conducts studies around the world, including Europe (France, Germany, United Kingdom); North America (Canada, Mexico, United States); Asia Pacific (China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand); and Africa (South Africa).

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 11, 2009.