American Honda Motor Co. Inc. has the most satisfied customers in the U.S. automotive market, according to a new survey by Strategic Vision Inc.
The San Diego-based research firm tabulated the number of problems experienced by new-vehicle owners.
But the report also measured the severity of the problems and how the resolutions affected owner satisfaction.
'Research has shown that a problem fixed quickly by the dealer can actually improve the customer's overall satisfaction,' said Dan Gorrell, vice president of Strategic Vision.
Obviously, Gorrell said, severe problems that are not quickly resolved cause dissatisfaction with the ownership experience.
The report counted major problems, such as drivetrain malfunctions, and minor ones, such as wind noise.
By those measures, only 9 percent of American Honda owners experienced problems with their vehicles that caused them to be dissatisfied.
The best brand was Acura; problems caused 6 percent of Acura owners to be dissatisfied.
The best models were the Acura Integra, BMW 318ti and Mercedes-Benz S class. Only 4 percent of their owners experienced problems that caused them to be dissatisfied with their cars.
The worst brand was Kia; problems caused 35 percent of owners to be dissatisfied.
Kia also had the worst model ranking: 36 percent of Kia Sephia owners were dissatisfied with the model.
The biggest surprise was Lexus; it tied for 20th place out of 36 brands studied. Gorrell said 15 percent of Lexus owners were dissatisfied due to problems.
Gorrell added that the new Lexus GS series raised the brand's overall dissatisfaction rate. According to the report, 22 percent of GS 300 and GS 400 owners were dissatisfied.
However, Strategic Vision also found that expectations can affect scores.
The report found that 89 percent of Lexus buyers had high reliability expectations, while only half of Hyundai buyers did.
In other words, Lexus owners reacted to problems more negatively than Hyundai buyers because the Lexus glitches were more unexpected.
But even though Hyundai buyers had low reliability expectations, the brand still finished next to last in the survey.
Gorrell said the overall industry dissatisfaction rate was 15 percent.
The report is based on responses from 33,000 people after three months of ownership of a 1998 model bought in October and November.