Ford Motor Co. has the highest owner loyalty of all auto manufacturers, according to a study released last week by the Polk Co.
Meanwhile, Lexus owners report the highest level of satisfaction with service work of all vehicle brands, according to a study released last week by J.D. Power and Associates.
The J.D. Power service study looked at both routine maintenance and unexpected repairs.
Cadillac, which scored fifth on maintenance and sixth on repairs, was able to pull into second overall because a large percentage of the respondents had their vehicles in for routine maintenance, said Jerry Griffith, a research supervisor for J.D. Power, an Agoura Hills, Calif., research firm. Customers feel good about routine maintenance, so it tends to boost satisfaction scores.
J.D. Power surveyed customers who had owned their vehicles for one, two or three years.
For its loyalty index Polk compared new-vehicle purchases with vehicles registered to a household. Polk set three levels of loyalty: make, model and manufacturer. For example, if a customer bought an Escort and an Escort was already registered in the household, the purchase would satisfy all three levels of loyalty and score more points on the loyalty index.
Ford, passing General Motors, led the competition for the manufacturer's loyalty award for the first time with a strong showing in the first six months of 1999. GM had won the manufacturer's loyalty award since the category was added to the study in 1997. Ford also topped the list of customer loyalty in seven of nine vehicle segments.
Polk, a Southfield, Mich., automotive research firm, said GM began to see customer loyalty decline in the fourth quarter of 1998 because UAW strikes had limited the number of new vehicles on dealer lots. But GM has been steadily regaining points on the survey since, Polk said, largely because the company offers a wide range of vehicles in every segment.
In the profitable sport-utility segment, the Jeep Grand Cherokee gained 10 percentage points from year-ago loyalty figures to win the top spot, knocking off the Ford Explorer.