FRANKFURT -- Toyota Motor Corp. took top honors for the fourth consecutive year on Wednesday in a high-profile survey of customer satisfaction among German motorists.
German luxury carmaker BMW boosted its performance to take third place behind Mazda Motor Corp. in the survey of 22,000 drivers by U.S. market research group J.D. Power and Associates.
DaimlerChrysler's premium Mercedes-Benz brand, which is pulling out all the stops to fix quality problems that have dented its luxury image, also won more points than in 2004 but remained stuck at 11th place.
The survey, conducted with German motoring magazine Mot, asked motorists to rank their experience in car quality and reliability, vehicle appeal, service satisfaction and ownership costs after two years on the road.
The winners in individual car segments were: Toyota Yaris Verso (small car); Toyota Corolla (lower medium car); Toyota Avensis (upper medium car); BMW 5 series (executive/luxury car); Mercedes-Benz CLK (sports car); Toyota Corolla Verso (multi-purpose vehicle); and Toyota RAV4 (sport utility vehicle).
Toyota led the industry as the most satisfying brand to own with an index score of 856 out of a possible 1,000. Mazda scored 839 points and BMW 837, well above the industry average of 800.
BMW was the most-improved brand compared with the 2004 study, gaining 29 points thanks to strong improvements in service satisfaction and ownership costs, the survey found.
The overall industry average rose from 786 in 2004 and has gained 33 points since the first Germany CSI survey in 2002.
"It is very positive to keep the top spot for the fourth consecutive year, which is a very good performance," Martin Volk, research manager at J.D. Power in Europe, said of Toyota.
He also said Mercedes-Benz was recovering.
"It is well documented that they had these quality problems in the past. But we see now that Mercedes has picked up a little bit and is still placed above the industry average," he said.
"It is a positive direction for Mercedes, especially for the E class, which dropped last year in our study and now has picked up again. So it is now coming through, perhaps not as strong as other competitors but we see a positive development for Mercedes."
Volk said overall 2005 results showed the continuing improvements that most European manufacturers are making in matching customer expectations with the service and products they offer.
"However, part of this success could also be credited to the extension by law in Germany of the warranty for defects on new vehicles from one to two years since January 2002," he said.
Subaru, made by Fuji Heavy Industries, fell to 13th place from third in 2004.
"This is mainly due to the volume model, the Forester," Volk said. "It is a combination of low sales and the impact of the volume model on the brand."