Toyota leads a new study with the fewest reported problems per vehicle, but Volkswagen has the best overall quality, according to Strategic Vision. The San Diego-based consulting firm said just 17 percent of Toyota owners reported problems with their cars, but Strategic Vision says its holistic quality index gauges how well a car matches the driver's "explicit desires." In that regard, Volkswagen, Ford and Chrysler -- including all subsidiary brands -- finished in the top three.
Strategic Vision's Total Quality Awards, presented since 1995, rank overall quality for new vehicles -- in this case, 2012 models bought in late 2011. The firm says its scores factor in consumer perceptions on areas from styling to sound systems, as well as problems per vehicle, as opposed to traditional studies that focus more on problems.
Unsurprisingly, the scores run counter to said studies. The namesake brands for Volkswagen, Ford and Chrysler all rated well below average in the latest Initial Quality Study from J.D. Power and Associates, and VW and Chrysler ranked near-bottom and bottom, respectively, in J.D. Power's three-year Vehicle Dependability Study. Chrysler, Ford and Volkswagen all ranked below average in Consumer Reports' latest Automaker Report Card, which compiles the magazine's subjective ratings with reliability surveys.
It's mixed news for Ford. The automaker performed well in Strategic Vision's study despite widespread criticism, including ours, of its MyFord Touch controls introduced two-and-half years ago. Marketing chief Jim Farley told Automotive News last week that a lot more Ford buyers value technology compared with car shoppers at large. But Ford's TQA winners, the 2012 F-Series pickup and 2012 Flex SUV, have something in common: They lacked MyFord Touch. Both models offer it for 2013.
Here are Strategic Vision's 2012 Total Quality Awards:
Small car: Fiat 500
Small multifunction: Volkswagen Golf
Midsize car: Chevrolet Volt
Midsize multifunction: Honda Crosstour
Large car: Dodge Charger
Near-luxury car: Audi A4 sedan
Luxury car: Audi A8 sedan
Specialty coupe: Mini Cooper coupe
Premium coupe: BMW 1 Series coupe, Chevrolet Corvette coupe
Convertible: Volkswagen Eos
Premium convertible/roadster: BMW Z4
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Entry utility: Volkswagen Tiguan
Midsize crossover utility: Ford Flex
Midsize traditional utility: Jeep Grand Cherokee
Large utility: Nissan Armada
Near-luxury utility: Land Rover Range Rover Evoque five-door
Luxury utility: BMW X6
Standard pickup: Honda Ridgeline
Full-size pickup: Ford F-150
Heavy-duty pickup: Ford F-250/350