Cadillac's parade of new designs, including the CTS sedan and Escalade SUVs, has helped the General Motors division win a greater emotional response from buyers, according to the latest quality survey from Strategic Vision Inc.
Import brands continue to dominate the top of the survey's overall brand ranking, with BMW claiming the top spot for the second year in a row with a score of 906 out of a possible 1,000 points. But Cadillac vaulted to second place in the 2003 survey, with a score of 903, from No. 9 a year ago.
Strategic Vision, of San Diego, calculated the results based on surveys of more than 30,000 people who bought a new vehicle in October and November. The buyers were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. This is the ninth year the firm has conducted the survey.
Lincoln and Saturn were other domestic brands that made significant gains.
Lincoln ranked in a tie for sixth place with Land Rover with a score of 887, up from a 13th ranking last year. Saturn jumped to the 12th place this year with a score of 865, up from the 24th spot in the 2002 survey.
"Domestics are showing signs of a comeback, particularly with Cadillac and Saturn," says Daniel Gorrell, vice president of Strategic Vision. "Cadillac is worth watching. Their product is good, but do they know how to build a brand?"
Gorrell said the survey "gives consumers a sense of how the new product fared, a sense of emotionality."
Questions range from rating value for money to smoothness at idle. Things gone wrong is only a piece of the whole picture, the firm believes.
When ranked as full-line corporations, Volkswagen of America Inc. finished first for the second year in a row, with a score of 882.
It was followed by American Honda Motor Co. Ltd. at 872, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. at 868 and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. at 859.
The Big 3 finished below the industry average score of 858, with GM at 857, Ford Motor Co. (excluding Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo and Land Rover) at 849 and the Chrysler group at 845.
Consumers' perceptions of Korean importers Hyundai and Kia is improving as the automakers overhaul their product portfolios.
The Kia Sorento sport wagon's score was within 2 points of the Toyota 4Runner, which Strategic Vision considers a tie for top place in the mid-sized SUV segment, while the Hyundai Santa Fe took the top spot in the small SUV category.
"Hyundai and Kia are showing up well in experience," Gorrell says. "They're not at Toyota levels yet, but the difference is not that great."
The strength of Japanese and European imports, Gorrell says, combined with the improvement by Korean automakers, is squeezing the Big 3 in the middle.