By on July 12, 2011

Can one dramatically increase customer satisfaction ion the course of three weeks? Yes, you can! How? Simple: Just get a different survey.

Three weeks ago, acid reflux, shouting matches and massive finger pointing were rampant at car companies like Volkswagen and Ford. On J.D.Power’s Initial Quality Study (IQS), Ford had landed (with a thud) on rank 23, and Volkswagen crashed to #29, outdone in measured mediocrity only by Mitsubishi, Suzuki, and Dodge.

Now, all is fine again.

Strategic Vision presented the results of their 2011 Total Quality Index (TQI) today. Who’s on top? The dogs of last month.

Volkswagen was rated the best Full-line Corporation. Volkswagen has three models (Golf, Jetta and Tiguan) that are Total Quality leaders. In second place: Ford, followed closely by Honda and Nissan.

What is the secret to this reversal of fortunes? It’s love, baby.

“When customers explicitly state ‘I love this about my vehicle,’ it results in increased sales,” says Alexander Edwards, President of Strategic Vision. “We explicitly measure the emotional impact of each vehicle attribute and ask the customer what they Love about their vehicle. Jetta and Sonata owners report more Love than most all of their competitors. This is why it is no surprise to us that the Jetta and Sonata have had their best sales ever with their 2011 models.”

Strategic Vision argues that if you love your car, you don’t mind little problems. If you hate it, the tiniest things can drive you to divorce. Sounds familiar.

See, love cures everything. Even a horrendous IQS rating-

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30 Comments on “All You Need Is Love: Volkswagen And Ford Suddenly On Top In Quality...”

  • avatar

    Unless, as was the case with my last VW, the endless “little” problems are what make you hate the car. I really wanted to love my car but all the “little” problems made me despise it.

    • 0 avatar

      I was in the same boat with my Jetta TDI. I loved it, but those “little” problems (like having a transmission or two fail within one year) cost me thousands and thousands of dollars to fix. I loved my Jetta and I was sorry to see it go, but I respect our Prius for its reliability, efficiency, and practicality.

      My wife and I rely on the Prius daily, which was bought new and has been paid off. I can afford to buy and pay off a new Toyota, but experience with my Jetta indicates that I’m nowhere near wealthy enough to afford to own a Volkswagen product again.

      BTW, owning a Volkswagen has given me a whole new respect for the reliability of the old Ford beater cars that I’d been driving before the Jetta. My estimation of Ford’s reliability has gone from “barely acceptable” (as compared to the series of Honda Accords that my father owned while I was growing up), to “pretty good” (as compared to my Volkswagen). I’m much more likely to ogle a new C-Max now!

  • avatar

    So just because I like driving my Golf, I don’t mind the countless dash rattles (for a while last year, it sounded like the guys at the production line had left a couple of empty soda cans in the IP), the fritzing DSG gearbox, or the aircon that five trips to the shop still couldn’t fix?

    (I do. I’ve ordered a Lexus and to hell with Volkswagen.)

    I’d argue it’s a case of love vs. quality rather than love=quality.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    There’s probably an element of truth to the “love” line of reasoning. If you compare the CR ratings, for instance, you often find a disconnect between reliability, cost and satisfaction ratings. For example, the more performance oriented car buyers surely place an outsized emphasis on speed and handling. The Avalon buyer likely gives added importance to ride and quiet. Prius buyers perhaps will forgive the appliance experience if the gas mileage is high enough. You’re more likely to ignore negative aspects if you didn’t much care about them in the first place. What Corvette owner hasn’t forgiven a few squeaks or a plebian interior? So to some degree, the quality ratings may be more a barometer of whether the manufacturer is delivering what the buyer is hoping to get, not necessarily an objective measure of overall quality.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of the “stiff upper lip” attitude foreign car owners had back in the day – including Japanese cars.

    You have to weigh the blessings vs. the maledictions of owning any car, often in the Biblical sense, too!

  • avatar

    People apply observe aggregate data, except to support their own values and prejudices. What is the very first thing 90% of people say when a reliability data story comes up? It’s an anecdote. It’s like people can’t even stop themselves, even knowing the response is non-sequitur. My car was terrible/brillinat so this is a great/horrible brand. We simply value what we see over what we know, and we see what we want to see too often. If you want to say a Toyota is a terrible car, you can go visit some forum and find heaps of stories about some basic design failure in which people will conclude, JD Power is a crock because my Toyota is POS.

    JD Power will not harm VW if the cars are accurately designed for the U.S. market and fundamentally appealing. Also, we are not talking about the 80s here anyway. The worst Land Rover car is a much better car than a Ford from 1985. We don’t talk about cars rusting away to dust in 4 years anymore; we are not talking about epidemic head gasket failures; we don’t see cars where the weather stripping reliably falls out in your lap after 1 year and the roof head unglues itself. We are talking about 1.5 versus 2 average service visits for warning lights, programmable power seat reboots. Occasionally there is a fundamental powertrain issue now, electrical or mechanical, but no manufacturer is immune, not even Toyota and Honda.

  • avatar

    Toyota games the J.D. Power survey. Or they used to. Seems like they got greedy and decided they could coast on quality. Anyway these companies (certainly JDP) take a lot of money from the car companies for internal studies, so I suspect various aspects of the process get tweaked.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you suggesting that Toyota is the only manufacturer that “games” the JD Power survey? That’s brilliant of them – making cars that have a minimum of defects to fool the owners into believing that their cars have fewer defects.

      What would be really cool is if a car maker decided to “game” the fuel economy ratings system.

      • 0 avatar

        In the IQS, a “defect” isn’t necessarily a broken part, it can just as well be a feature that the customer can’t figure out or is frustrated with even if it’s working as designed.

        Designing dead-simple interiors and dashboards does tend to reduce the number of IQS “defects”. Things like Sync and MyFord Touch add functionality but will tend to also increase the number of “defects”.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    dmw: Very good point about the tremendous overall improvement in reliability across the board. Years back, say in the 1960-1980 period, it was pro forma to return to the dealer at the first 1000 miles to get the list of “problems” repaired. This was the norm and completely expected. My recent Audis, and before them Passats, have never been known as paragons of reliabity, and yet compared to my former Porsches, Toyotas, Subarus and Hondas, they were more than good.

  • avatar

    Amazing how a new car such as the Americanized Jetta can be so reviled by automotive and VeeDub enthusiasts, yet get such positive feedback from the owner set. Could it be that Volkswagen USA had it right all along and say that price really is the key to market share?

    • 0 avatar

      What you say is probably true and its probably also true that what automotive journalists and auto enthusiasts (such as the people who read and comment on this site) like in a car is not in line with what “normal” car buyers care about.

      Example: The new Jetta has drum rear brakes. TTAC reader reaction: “VW has ruined the car. It’s awful!” Normal person reaction “So does that help the stereo make drums sound louder or…?”

      Journalists and enthusiasts want ceramic brakes that can bring the car down from 100 mph in 10 consecutive stops with no increase in stopping distance. Normal car buyers want a car that stops at a stoplight.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    “We explicitly measure the emotional impact of each vehicle attribute…”

    Even Six Sigma has been unable to measure intangibles like emotion. Those Strategic Vision folks must be geniuses. Or magic. Or charletans. Hmm.

  • avatar

    So does this mean that most such “quality” rating surveys are meaningless? Probably.

    • 0 avatar

      So does this mean that most such “quality” rating surveys are meaningless?

      No, it means that you need to know how the researcher defines terms such as “quality”, rather than just assuming that quality = reliability.

      This kind of data can be useful to automakers and marketers. It’s useful to a consumer who wants to know the level of enthusiasm that his peers have for a product. But if you want to know how often or how badly the car breaks, then you need to find another survey.

    • 0 avatar

      Meaningless? Strong word. I wouldn’t say meaningless.

      Would I put more weight in JD Power short-term vs long-term or Consumer Reports recommended versus the follow the Harvey balls vesus True Delta versus Intelifix versus…

      Nope. I wouldn’t give any of them more weight than the other, and I wouldn’t give any of them a whole lot of weight. They are all just a single point of data in the decision making process* for a buyer and should be treated as such.

      *Disclaimer: each survey is comprised of thousands of respondents who either self-selected, self-reported, responded to a survey, or in the case of Intelifix reports from independent repair facilities doing non-warranty work. The data is then waterboarded through secret formulas and by people with Phd next to their name, some educated guesses are thrown in when data is thin and poof, you have your findings. It isn’t to say that any of these surveys come from a SINGLE point of data, well unless you count the fact that Consumer Reports declared Porsche the most reliable brand – that was exposed by TTAC as basically coming from – a single point of data. Complaints about the term single point of data should be forwarded to the management – written – not signed

  • avatar

    I am not buying it.. Ford, maybe.. VW? No way.

  • avatar

    Just another data point that shows that these quality surveys are just that, a singular data point that should be taken with a large grain of salt.

    Identifix, CR, JDP, SV, IC, TD, none of them have the “perfect” answer. Nor do enthusiast sites (after you chaffe out the I love it I love it I love it and the car X sucks because I say so posts) or owner reviews. It is all just a single point of data, and should be treated as such.

    • 0 avatar

      Just another data point that shows that these quality surveys are just that, a singular data point that should be taken with a large grain of salt.

      No, it isn’t just a “singular data point.” It’s a summation of 37,069 surveys, each of which would have included several data points: “The Total Quality Index was calculated from 37,069 buyers who bought 2011 models in September to December of 2010.”

      An anecdote about some dude who just loves his Impala is a “singular data point.” A survey like this is not.

      What this isn’t is a reliability survey. But it didn’t claim to be.

      • 0 avatar

        You must be great fun at cocktail parties.

        No kidding it was a survey, thanks for stating the obvious. When evaluating a car purchasing decision, it is a singular point of data, and should be given the same weight.

        If you want to have a cognitive bias fit over one publication or another being better, or some dataset having higher integrity than another – have at it.

  • avatar

    When evaluating a car purchasing decision, it is a singular point of data, and should be given the same weight.

    A survey of thousands of people is absolutely not equivalent to a single anecdote. Not even close.

    • 0 avatar

      A survey of thousands of people is only as good as the questions asked, the demographics selected, the authentication of both, the pool of responses received, how they are tabulated, and the formula behind them to reach a result.

      TTAC ran a series of stories exposing why CR in particular is not the be-all end-all despite getting thousands of ressponses. Do a search. You’ll learn that Porsche’s rating came from literally, a singular point of data, even on models that no one reported on. When I say singular point of data, I mean one person responded. The whole basis for maintaining Porsche’s rating was from that tiny nugget. It was very eye opening to me.

      If the methodology is flawed, or if they make stuff up to fill gaps in the data – its weight is worth about the same as any other singular opinion or source.

      I’m done with this topic.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ll learn that Porsche’s rating came from literally, a singular point of data, even on models that no one reported on. When I say singular point of data, I mean one person responded

        Er, you completely misunderstood what you read. I mean completely, as in 100%.

        Go back and read it again:

        Just in case you miss it again, the article was referring to the number of Porsche models for which it received enough responses to allow for a report, not to the total number of survey respondents.

        Ironically, Mr. Karesh’s article inadvertently makes the point for me, namely that a good survey result is only possible when the sample size is large enough to be valid. Because if there aren’t enough replies, the results are too close to being anecdotal in nature to be of any statistical value, so CR won’t report them.

      • 0 avatar

        “TTAC ran a series of stories exposing why CR in particular is not the be-all end-all despite getting thousands of responses.”

        Oh, you must mean those opinion pieces written by the owner of a competing service where he bashed the competition by very selectively highlighting certain data while simultaneously failing to point out the miniscule size of his own database? For someone who acts like he has a great grip on statistics, data points and the makings of good surveys, you sure failed to see those lame excuses for “journalism” for what they were.

      • 0 avatar

        For someone who acts like he has a great grip on statistics, data points and the makings of good surveys…


        Perhaps it would help if a bit of translation of the article in question was provided:

        – Survey accuracy is impacted by the number of respondents. Generally speaking, more is better, as a larger sample is more likely to reflect the total population.

        – Mr. Karesh is critical of CR because there are certain cars for which CR doesn’t report data, due to the low number of responses. (Presumably, this makes True Delta better in his mind, because it reports information on certain models that CR won’t.)

        I may have missed it, but what Mr. Karesh doesn’t seem to mention is that CR won’t report the results for any given model if there are fewer than 100 respondents.

        True Delta does not solve this problem by getting 100 of its own respondents. Instead, it publishes results when it has only 25 respondents, a policy that is likely to create a less accurate result.

        CR could increase the number of models on which it reports if it, too, would reduce its required number of respondents to 25. But that wouldn’t improve accuracy, and one would expect that it would make it worse.

        The criticisms don’t make much sense, frankly. It’s certainly debatable that having lower standards or a higher tolerance for inaccuracy makes for a “better” survey. Of course, it will produce more results, because the barrier to publication is lower. But the margin of error would be higher, and I don’t think that either source is publishing that (which would be a weakness of both of them.)

  • avatar

    I think it’s more that anybody who wasn’t madly in love with these cars already dumped them for something that didn’t drive them crazy.

  • avatar

    The 3 year dependability survey is the only thing that matters. Only a moron would consult the other charts from JD when buying a car.

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