Ford leads in U.S. auto quality survey

* Ford is No.2 after June pummeling in J.D. Power survey

* Overall perception more important that problems

DETROIT, July 12 (Reuters) – Less than a month after Ford Motor Co (F.N) was pummeled in one quality survey, a second survey has ranked it the No. 2 highest-quality U.S. automaker.

The second survey, released by Strategic Vision Inc on Tuesday, said that customers’ overall feeling about their vehicles is more important than particular problems.

Ford owners reported more problems with their vehicles than the industry average, but rated the overall quality of the vehicles highly, according to the survey. They were particularly happy with the Ford Mustang coupe and convertible, the Flex, and the F-150 and 250/350 pickup trucks.

“People think of quality in a very different sense than just counting problems,” said Christopher Chaney, a Strategic Vision vice president in charge of automotive research.

A company’s use of new technology or styling can also play important roles, he said.

On a statistical basis, Ford tied with American Honda Corp and Nissan Motor Corp in for the No. 2 ranking. Still, Ford fared better in the Strategic Vision study than it did in a survey by J.D. Power and Associates last month, where it fell to 23rd place, its lowest ranking in a decade. The J.D. Power survey records difficulties faced by new car owners in the first 90 days of ownership.[ID:nN1E75M1JX]

Ford, the only U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy and a government bailout during the financial crisis, has recently been criticized for a clunky control system for its radios and difficult-to-use technology.

The Strategic Vision survey asks car owners to rate all aspects of ownership, from the process of buying a vehicle to its performance. The 2011 survey included 37,069 buyers of 2011 vehicles from September to December 2010. This is the sixteenth year of the survey, which is paid for by manufacturers.

Surveys like the Strategic Vision survey and the J.D. Power survey that attempt to gauge consumer sentiment are key pieces of industry marketing materials and help shape consumer opinion. They also help set resale values and warranty costs.

The idea that a car owner’s overall experience could trump minor problems with a vehicle rests on the premise that there are few serious problems, those problems are typically fixed immediately at the dealership, and styling details can have significant impact, according to the survey.

Besides Ford, Volkswagen of America and Hyundai Motor America have also benefited from this, according to the survey. For details of the rankings, please see:[ID:N1E76A158]

On average, 30 percent of owners reported problems with Volkswagen’s Jetta and Hyundai’s Sonata, compared with 22 percent of owners reporting problems for all mid-size cars. Even so, the 2011 models of both vehicles had record sales, according to the survey. The higher incidence of problems didn’t matter because Jetta and Sonata owners were happy with their overall purchase, according to the survey.


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