SAN DIEGO-For the first time, the Hyundai brand has produced the most leaders on Strategic Vision’s Total Quality Index (TQI), leading in three segments. The San Diego-based research firm announced 2007 results based on the ratings of new vehicle owners in 19 product segments.

The only other brand to produce three leaders was Nissan. Hyundai Motors had a total of five leaders with the Kia brand earning two more; Ford Motor and BMW Group each earned three (one for BMW, two for Mini); General Motors, Honda and Mercedes each earned two; and Dodge, Lexus and Volkswagen each earned one. BMW repeated as the top-scoring brand for the eighth time in 9 years, and Volkswagen of America kept its claim as the best full-line corporation.

The Total Quality Index measures new vehicle owner satisfaction. It asks buyers to rate all aspects of the ownership experience, from buying and owning to driving. Although Toyota improved overall with their TQI scores, the most significant change in 2007 is the lack of any Toyota brand segment leaders. Examining the number of problems or things-gone-wrong per vehicle-the traditional definition of quality-Toyota and Lexus are still among the best. However, Toyota’s lead in this narrower definition of quality is now shared with other brands such as Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti and domestic brands such as Ford. For example, the Ford Expedition EL enjoyed a large lead and had the fewest problems in the segment. Expedition EL owners recognized innovative changes, which are key to future domestic success.

“With automotive corporations now doing a terrific job in providing vehicles with minimal problems, the cues of quality, those product attributes that signal quality and create customer trust, have a greater impact on the purchase decision. Perceived quality has the power to change customer perception of a vehicle from being ‘interesting’ to eventually considered and purchased,” says Alexander Edwards, Strategic Vision president. “In the past, one could count the number of problems per vehicle; but for automotive customers today and tomorrow, a comprehensive and integrated perception of the ownership experience will be what drives the decision-making process.”

Responses from more than 27,000 buyers who bought 2007 models in September, October and November of 2006 were used to calculate the Total Quality Index.