FRANKFURT -- Japanese carmakers trounced their rivals in a poll of German customer satisfaction released on Wednesday, beating several quality-conscious German producers on their own turf.
DaimlerChrysler's flaghip Mercedes brand languished in 31st place in the ADAC-AutoMarxX annual customer satisfaction poll -- up one place from a year earlier -- while Volkswagen came last in the 33rd place.
Mercedes nevertheless defended first place in the poll's overall rankings, which are based on six different criteria such as customer satisfaction and brand image.
Volkswagen stayed in sixth place overall, while Toyota Motor Corp. became the first foreign manufacturer ever to take the number two overall ranking.
Japanese carmakers' reputation for quality have helped them make steady inroads to the western European market, and the latest German satisfaction survey gave them eight of the top 10 places.
Only luxury carmaker Porsche at rank five and General Motors' unit Saab in ninth place were able to crack the Japanese companies' dominance, led by Toyota, Subaru, Honda and Mazda.
Toyota, the world's second-biggest carmaker, tied with BMW for second place in the overall rankings, followed by Porsche and VW premium division Audi.
The poll showed wide gaps between customer satisfaction and perceptions of carmakers' image.
"German brands traditionally have an advantage when it comes to image. This assures their market success for the time being," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Centre for Automotive Research (CAR) at Gelsenkirchen University.
Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porsche and VW took the first five places in the image rankings, while Toyota climbed to eighth place from 10th.
CAR calculates the AutoMarxX rankings on behalf of the ADAC car club, whose survey was based on responses from more than 42,000 drivers.