When it comes to value, car buyers love their Saturns.
In a recent survey of 47,000 new-vehicle buyers, owners of the Saturn coupe ranked the car higher than other models on purchase price, operating expense and expected resale value.
'Saturn buyers start with a good buying experience. They feel as though they get a good deal on their purchase,' said Dan Gorrell, president of Strategic Vision Inc., the San Diego research and consulting group that prepared the study.
Saturn also tied, with Volkswagen, for the top brand under $20,000.
Domestic brands as a whole, however, did not fare as well as some foreign-built competitors. On the list of the top 10 models of all prices and market segments, the Saturn is the only domestically made model.
Among vehicle brands priced over $30,000 Volvo was the top-ranked brand, finishing ahead of BMW, Lexus and Infiniti. Cadillac ranked seventh on the luxury scale and Lincoln was No. 11.
Strategic Vision surveyed people who bought or leased a new vehicle during the first three months of the year and had owned the vehicle for at least three months. The questions are aimed at eliciting personal feelings about the vehicle and are not limited to a laundry list of things wrong with the vehicle, Gorrell said.
Participants were asked to respond to statements such as: 'Pricing was except ionally clear and straightforward,' and 'My new car is extremely dependable.'
Volvo, with several vehicles finishing high in their respective classes, was Ford Motor Co.'s strongest brand. The rest of Ford's portfolio did not fare as well. One reason is that Ford's bread-and-butter vehicles, the Ford Taurus and F-150, are not perceived as offering value, Gorrell said.
People think of Ford as a truck company, and its car line suffers as a result, Gorrell said, adding: 'Ford's brand equity resides in its trucks.'
Despite what Gorrell sees as strong identification of Ford with trucks, the F-150 finished fifth out of six pickups in the full-sized pickup segment. The GMC Sierra Classic finished first.
The large sport-utility segment was also dominated by General Motors, which accounted for five of the six vehicles on the list, including the top-ranked GMC Yukon.
Building vehicles that are perceived as prov iding good value is the first step on an automaker's road to building shareholder value, Gorrell said.
'New vehicle buyers want a strong initial purchase experience, a great price and good long-term consequences, including resale value,' Gorrell said. 'If buyers perceive their vehicles as having good value, a carmaker can build good shareholder value.'