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MINI Tops AutoPacific Rankings for Satisfaction With Dealer Experience

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AutoPacific’s annual survey of new car and light truck buyers includes a question about the buyers’ Overall Satisfaction with the Dealer Experience. Dealer experience includes both the sales experience and service experience. Respondents to the survey have owned their vehicles for ninety days or more so they have had the opportunity to visit the dealership to handle issues with initial quality or get their first oil change.

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In AutoPacific’s 2006 Research Suite results, MINI is the highest scoring brand with 65% of MINI buyers indicating they are “Completely Satisfied” with their dealership experience. The ranking by brand is shown below:
1. 65% MINI
2. 60% Porsche
3. 59% Cadillac
4. 57% Lexus
5. 56% Jaguar
6. 55% BMW
7. 54% Lincoln
8. 53% Saturn
9. 52% Mercury
9. 52% Land Rover
The remainder of the brands are shown below the fold.


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Tidbit of the Day – Americans Using Less Gas

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Can you imagine it? Americans used less gasoline in 2006 than in 2005. What a surprise!
You remember. In 2006, gasoline prices spiked to over $3.00 per gallon in many parts of the country. Sales of fuel-inefficient big SUVs and full size pickups stalled. SUVs and pickups piled up on dealer lots and in storage facilities around the country.
VehicleVoice Survey Shows Drivers Not Changing Driving Habits Much, But Government Data Say Increases in Miles Driven Have Stabilized
Each month, VehicleVoice surveys our panel members with the Fuel Price Impact Survey. This tracking survey has found that panel members (who represent the general driving population) weren’t making any really substantial changes in the way they drove, but they were aware that changes in their driving habits could influence fuel usage. What government data show is that miles driven has stabilized.
Data from the government confirms that, year-to-year, 2006 was about the same as 2005 in terms of miles driven. The minuscule 0.10% increase in 2006 was the lowest since 1979 and 1980 where there actually were decreases in miles driven.
Minor Changes in Driving Habits Can Save Significant Amounts of Fuel

With the typical American driver driving almost 14,000 miles per year, even a minor change in driving habits can save a tremendous amount of fuel. VehicleVoice data show that combining trips is the most common way of saving fuel. What our data clearly show, however, is that people are not driving slower to conserve fuel nor are they checking the air pressure in their tires. In fact, low air pressure in tires can hurt fuel economy by 10% to 15%.


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SUVs are NOT Dead

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SUVs are NOT DEAD – Sport Utility Vehicles Remain Top Considered Vehicle Segment
For as long as I can remember, the New York Times and eastern media have been taking SUVs to task. While many of the people writing these stories don’t own a vehicle or even drive a car or truck, they have decided that the Sport Utility Vehicle is the poster child for social irresponsibility. No matter what they say, folks continue to gravitate to SUVs. We have the data.
For the past thirteen years, Sport Utility Vehicles have been the product segment that is most considered by American driving public. 2006 was a traumatic year for SUVs. High fuel prices dampened demand for large truck-based SUVs, but in 2006 as for more than a decade, demand for SUVs was highest among AutoPacific’s seven macro product segments. When consideration for contemporary SUVs – Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles or XSUVs – is included, consideration goes even higher.

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Sales of Full Size SUVs Like Ford Expedition Have Fallen

Clearly America’s love affair for this Swiss Army Knife of vehicles has not waned, nor has demand by Americans for a vehicle type that can do many different things. We used to say that people bought SUVs because they can go anywhere, go anytime, go with anything, go with anybody… an SUV could do it all. Meeting these criteria – especially the go anywhere aspect of the equation yielded SUVs that were too capable. They could go off-road over rough terrain through tough climate conditions. Even though most buyers never used them for what they were capable of, they were designed to have off-road credibility.

Let it be XSUV:
Let’s officially coin our term for Crossover SUVs. These are not simply “crossovers”, after all, you could have a crossover of almost any two products. We don’t want to call them CUVs – Crossover Utility Vehicles – because that dilutes what they really are supposed to be. The right term is Crossover SUV. This clearly defines that this is an SUV based on a car platform – something not quite as capable as body-on-frame traditional SUVs. So, for now on, it’s XSUVs.
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2008 Buick Enclave – New Generation XSUV Responds to Buyers Demands

Carmakers Responded to Buyers with Crossover SUVs: By the end of the ‘90s, manufacturers began to respond to buyers’ demand for slightly softer product characteristics. For awhile terms like “soft-roaders”, “cute-utes” were used to describe vehicles like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and even the Lexus RX300. Inside the car companies engineers and designers were referring to these types of vehicles as Crossovers. And while the buyer rarely refers to his Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, or Honda Pilot as a Crossover SUV, that is what they are. They are not designed for off-roading, but they are designed to provide comfortable, maneuverable, efficient transportation in the suburbs and on vacation.
VehicleVoice internet survey panel members and respondents to AutoPacific’s annual Future Vehicle Survey have responded about what type of transportation they will consider next time they buy. Selected details are below the fold.


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Ford Hints at Future Features

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AutoPaciific’s Future Attributes Demand Study – An Industry Blble
One of AutoPacific’s specialties is Future Attribute Demand. Each year, AutoPacific surveys thousands of new car and truck buyers to determine what features they want on their next vehicle. AutoPacific then publishes a report called the Future Attribute Demand Study (FADS). FADS is used by the industry to help guide their decisions in which features to offer on their upcoming cars and trucks.
In addition to FADS, automakers also conduct their own research and use this information to determine where their design and engineering resources for advanced features should be expended.
Ford Features Cadence Will Bring Needed New Technologies to Ford’s Products
Ford has given us a glimpse of the cadence of future features that American car buyers can expect to see from the Company in the coming years. In Ford’s case, they conducted the research and have been closely evaluating what their competition is doing. Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s new head of worldwide product development, states that, “Ford will offer a new feature when it appears that two of our major competitors have offered or appear to be ready to offer it.”
In the past Ford has hesitated, often too long, in introducing new features that consumers want. When their internal analysis determined that a new feature might not achieve immediate acceptance and result in incremental sales volume, the Company hesitated. Now, that will change. Competitors, in addition to internal studies, will help guide Ford’s features.
So, what new features can we expect from the Dearborn car company?
First, their research shows a strong demand for capless fuel filling. Beginning in 2008, some Ford cars will begin offering capless fuel filling. In this system, behind the fuel filler door is a system that allows the fuel filler nozzle to be inserted without unscrewing a cap.
Ford also will be offering audio systems from Sony and THX surround sound audio on Lincolns. Ford is teaming up with Microsoft in a broadbased vehicle communications, information and entertainment system that will finally give Ford vehicles Bluetooth capability. Up to now, Bluetooth has been an accessory at the Blue Oval.
Lighting is also getting attention. Ford will begin to use interior ambient lighting for things like door handles and cupholders. Even door sill scuff plates on some vehicles will be lighted.
A really cool feature is light through paint. Using this technology rear high mounted brake lights can look like they are bodycolor. Ford’s signature keyless entry system buttons can be muted using bodycolor light through paint.
On the safety side, Ford will begin offering some technologies that has been available elsewhere for some time now: blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation systems.
Will Ford’s Fast Follower Strategy be Fast Enough?
It appears that Ford’s strategy is to be a “fast follower” in technology and not a technology leader. This is OK, as long as they follow fast enough. Having Fords without Bluetooth, iPod integration, playlist management, adaptive cruise, etc puts them well behind their competition. In today’s rapidly moving world, this is competitively unacceptable.


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Happy Holidays from VehicleVoice

Happy Holidays!!

As we approach the year end of 2006, VehicleVoice would like to wish all of our readers and survey takers Happy Holidays and best wishes for a successful 2007.
There are over 60,000 of you now and you have helped make VehicleVoice one of the fastest growing automotive news sites since VehicleVoice was launched in November, 2005.
We look forward to continuing the dialog with you in the coming year.
Have a Great Holiday Season!
VehicleVoice
brought to you by
AutoPacific


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Mercedes E-Class – Luxury Taxi for the USA?

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I’ve just been wandering around in AutoPacific‘s Research Suite data and decided to take a look at the results for the 2006 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Mercedes E-Class owners completed AutoPacific’s Future Vehicle Survey either by mail or through the VehicleVoice website. This allows us to get a good look at them compared with the owners of competitive cars.

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Now, I know that E-Class is a popular car for use as a taxi-cab in Germany. The place is crawling with flesh-colored E-Classes with M-B Tex interiors, diesel engines and low feature loads. Of course, in the USA, the E-Class is positioned as a mid-level European Sport Sedan… or is it? Here is is a $50,000 luxury car… European, yes… Sport Sedan… maybe not.
Is E-Class the Anti-Sport Sedan?
Compared with other cars competing with the E-Class the differences are startling. Different from the Audi A6 and BMW 5-Series, the E-Class is bought by a person who tends to be substantially older, more likely to be married, much less affluent, less educated. They are much less likely to describe themselves as an auto enthusiast or to agree that a vehicle is a means of self-expression. They just aren’t into cars the way that Audi and BMW owners are.
Innovative technology is not particularly important. A navigation system or advanced audio system is not particularly important. Exterior styling? Who cares? Power and acceleration? Leave that to Audi and BMW. Fun to drive? Stodgy is OK.
AutoPacific Profiles Owners of Every Vehicle, But E-Class Profile is Surprising
Wow! I guess unless you track these things in detail all the time (which we do), results like these are very surprising. Mercedes’ product execution and communications strategy has brought a lower common denominator luxury car buyer into the franchise.
Where’s the excitement? Not with the E-Class!


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AutoPacific's 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards Announced

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An “ideal” is defined as an excellent or perfect example. In the first Ideal Vehicle Awards, announced today by automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, owners rate their new 2006 model year cars and trucks by how closely they come to their ideal. The cars or trucks that owners would change the least are the most ideal.
Those carmakers that best understand their customers and create the vehicle their core buyer group desires has come closest to the ideal.
The top-rated vehicle and top-rated car is the Mercury Montego in the Large Car/Luxury Car category. In fact, Ford Motor Company sweeps the first three positions overall with the Ford Crown Victoria and Ford Five Hundred in second and third place. The top-rated truck is the Honda Odyssey Minivan.
The top-rated brand overall is Hyundai out-pointing Mercury and Lincoln for the most ideal vehicle honors.
Ford Motor Company and American Honda have three segment winners apiece. BMW and Hyundai have two each.
Of the sixteen Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) categories, Japanese brands have seven segment winners, American brands have four, European brands have three and Korean brands have two winners.
The top-rated product segment is Large Car/Luxury Car confirming that Americans continue to value large, comfortable cars suitable for suburban and highway cruising.
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Vehicle brand: Hyundai
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Product Segment: Large Car/Luxury Car
Top rated 2006 Ideal Vehicles by segment:
PASSENGER CARS:
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS
Entry Luxury Car: BMW 3-Series
Large Car/Luxury Car: Mercury Montego
Premium Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata
Mid-Size Car: Mercury Milan
Image Compact Car: Toyota Prius
Compact Car: Ford Focus
Sports Car: Porsche 911
Sporty Car: Acura RSX
SUT, SUV, and MINIVAN:
Sport Utility Truck: Honda Ridgeline
Luxury Sport Utility: BMW X5
Large Sport Utility: GMC Yukon
Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility: Nissan Murano
Mid-Size Sport Utility: Hyundai Santa Fe
Compact Sport Utility: Subaru Forester
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
In addition to identifying segment winners, IVA also establishes numerical ideal vehicle ratings for virtually every passenger car and light truck (except pickups) in the United States market. This results from calculating owner input across 11 specific areas related to a vehicle’s exterior size, passenger roominess, cargo space, driver’s seat comfort, drivers seat visibility, interior technology, power, ease of getting in and out, interior storage compartments and tires and wheels. The 2006 ratings reflect input from buyers and lessees of new vehicles acquired September 2005 through January 2006. Pickup trucks are not incorporated because of numerous body styles included within each pickup line.


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Only One Week Left for Brand Image Survey

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Join VehicleVoice
Every month, VehicleVoice collects the opinions of VehicleVoice automotive Internet panel members on the attitudes they have about various brands.
There is another week left in the May survey and it is the perfect opportunity for a new member to immediately get acquainted with fun and influential VehicleVoice surveys.
There is a sweepstakes of $100 paid to the winner.
So, if you are not yet a VehicleVoice panel member, click on JOIN in the menu bar above and get started. You will be directed to a brief sign-up page and then to the brand image survey.

Welcome Aboard!


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AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Results – Japanese Brands On Top

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The AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards honor products in nineteen categories or segments. Nine categories are cars and ten are trucks.
Overwhelming Win by Japanese Brands in Satisfaction by Vehicle Type
Overall, owners of Japanese brand vehicles rate their cars or trucks at the top of their category in ten of the nineteen categories. Owners of European brand vehicles rated their vehicle tops in two categories – Volkwagen Passat in the Premium Mid-Size Car Category and the MINI Cooper in the Image Compact Car class. The American Big Three had five wins… Lincoln Navigator won it all with the highest rating of any vehicle – car or truck; Cadillac CTS, Mercury Milan, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty. OK, that leaves two winners unaccounted for… those are from Hyundai.
The Hyundai Azera is the top rated car, even beating top class luxury cars like the Lexus LS430, jaguar XJ, BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Hyundai Santa Fe is the top rated Mid-Size SUV for the fifth time in its six year history… this win comes just months before it is replaced by an all new Santa Fe to be produced in America.
So…
Japanese Brands – 10 with Suzuki having its first ever win
American Brands – 5 with Chrysler Group having zero wins
European Brands – 2
Korean Brands – 2
Check http:/.vehiclevoice.com for the complete listings.


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MINI Cooper Wins AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Image Compact Cars

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Car makers continuously strive to produce a small car that people actually want to buy – an Image Compact Car – a car people aspire to. MINI has certainly achieved that goal. A car coveted by young and old drivers alike, the MINI has an attitude unmatched in today’s car market. Distinctive, cute, fun to drive, MINI is a delight that clearly satisfies its owners placing it at the top of the segment in the AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.


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