Volkswagen, Hyundai and Ford are leaders in Strategic Vision's newest Total Value Index study. But for the first time in over a decade, American manufacturers lead the number of Total Value winners in vehicle categories, with 11 segment leaders.
Another big change: four alternative fueled vehicles -- Chevrolet Volt, Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Leaf and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid -- led their respective segments. The firm says that in the past, alternative-powertrain didn't lead because simply offering better fuel economy did not provide enough overall value to make a difference. The Tustin, Calif.-based market research firm says the change implies a watershed moment for acceptance and desirability of hybrids.
“Even though the median price of a Chevy Volt was $43,000, owners believe that for every dollar spent, they got more than did buyers of other vehicles,” said Alexander Edwards, president of the company. “Customers had tremendous value appreciation for [the vehicle's] technical innovation, warranty, standard equipment and certainly fuel economy.”
In Strategic Vision's study, Volt not only had the highest Total Value score in the Mid-Size Car Segment, but also the highest score of any vehicle in Strategic Vision’s study. Owners may have a predilection to love cutting-edge technology, as they had a median annual income of $133,000, with 37% having post-doctorate degrees, putting them solidly in the early-adopter category. Another alternative-engine vehicle, the all-electric Nissan Leaf, won in its segment for technical innovation and standard equipment.
But Edward -- giving a nod to the fact that such vehicles still make up only a couple percent of the U.S. auto market -- said cost benefits, not emotions, will be what drives broad acceptance and larger volumes. “A word of caution to manufacturers is to realize potential buyers are smarter and more empowered with information than ever before. A hybrid needs to make sense for larger sales volumes to occur. Hybrid ownership is still primarily 'statement'-driven, but things are changing.”
General Motors also had segment winners with Cadillac CTS and CTS Coupe, Chevrolet Corvette Coupe and the GMC Yukon. Honda had several winners as well, with the Honda Civic Hybrid, Accord Coupe, Odyssey, Ridgeline and Acura TSX Wagon. Hyundai continued its winning streak because of design, features and mileage from models like Tucson. Ford topped domestics with Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Mustang Convertible, Flex, and the F-Series trucks.
Dodge Durango was another winner; Volvo won because of strong product and comprehensive warranty with several of its vehicles, and Mini Cooper won for the seventh year in the Specialty Coupe segment, per the study.
Strategic Vision says the Total Value ranking is a combination of subjective owner statements on 442 attributes combined with what the firm characterizes as immediate and long-term economic factors like warranty, technical innovation, standard equipment, and vehicle mileage ratings. The survey side of the study gets into political party affiliation, personal media habits and hobbies, and any ethnicity they claim.
“The way you become a value leader in this economy is to create an exceptional product that is affordable. Price alone will not determine value," said Darrel Edwards, founder and executive director of Strategic Vision.