For the first time, a hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, is the highest-ranking model in satisfying new-car owners, according to the J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? magazine 2007 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) StudySM released today. The Prius ties with the Lexus IS for the top ranking among models included in the study.

Following the Prius and Lexus IS, the top 10 model rankings are dominated by Japanese models from Toyota, Honda and Lexus, although Škoda makes an excellent showing with the Octavia and Fabia ranking fifth and seventh overall.

Highlighting the growing focus on environmentally friendly cars, the Toyota Prius receives 868 index points on a 1,000 point scale and earns particularly high ratings in ownership costs. Prius owners are most satisfied with day-to-day operating costs and also report high satisfaction for vehicle quality, vehicle appeal and dealer service.

“The Prius clearly demonstrates that car owners think green is good,” said Steve Fowler, editor of What Car? magazine. “We know that there’s an increase in consumer interest in environmentally friendly cars here in the UK, and with the Prius topping the model rankings in the 2007 study, we may be seeing a trend emerging in people’s thinking about these vehicles.”

In the nameplate rankings, luxury Japanese brand Lexus ranks highest for a seventh consecutive year, receiving a customer satisfaction score of 862 index points. Lexus continues to receive particularly high ratings in three of the four key measures: quality/reliability, service satisfaction and vehicle appeal. Following Lexus in the rankings are Honda and Škoda in a tie at 845 points, Toyota (832) and Daihatsu (824).

Mercedes-Benz is the most improved nameplate in 2007, increasing 12 points from 2006. Other notable improvements include Citroën, MG Rover and Land Rover.

“Mercedes-Benz has made impressive strides over the past two years, with major improvements in vehicle quality and dealer service making a strong impact on satisfaction with the overall ownership experience,” said Frank Parisi, director of European automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. “It is also particularly notable to see a hybrid car perform so well, and that the increasing popularity amongst UK consumers for the green credentials of this car seems to be matched by levels of ownership satisfaction.”

The 2007 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Study is based on the evaluations of more than 18,000 UK car owners after an average of two years of ownership. The study includes 33 brands and 113 models. Owners provide detailed evaluations of their vehicles and dealers, which covers 77 attributes grouped in four measurements of satisfaction. In order of importance, they are:

Quality and reliability (30%)
Vehicle appeal (28%), which includes performance, design, comfort and features
Dealer service satisfaction (22%)
Ownership costs (19%), which includes fuel consumption, insurance and costs of service/repair

J.D. Power and Associates conducts CSI 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 is designed to help manufacturers provide high levels of satisfaction to their customers, and gives consumers access to reliable and accurate information about many different vehicle models. More comprehensive study results are published exclusively in the July issue of What Car? on sale Thursday, 10 May, 2007.

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2007 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Study