November 10th, 2008 by Steve Cypher

Today the San Diego-based research and consulting firm released its findings on what it sees as the driving force behind customer buying decisions.

Kia Amanti

Kia Amanti

 Economic Concerns and “Change” Produce New Car Buying Perceptions of Total Value

Here at, we can remember the time when car buying decisions were based on whether you were a Ford guy, a GM (specifically Chevy, Buick, Pontiac, etc.) guy or a Chrysler guy. But let’s face it; if you can remember that far back, you are officially an “old” guy.

In today’s auto sales climate, quality and the perception of that quality have become more important than ever. J.D. Power started it all in 1981 with the company released its first Customer Satisfaction survey (Power calls it an Index) and again in 1987 when it released the automotive Initial Quality Study. Since that time, a number of companies have thrown their hats into the ring and have come up with their own unique methods of measuring customer loyalty and their perceptions of vehicle quality.

For its part, San Diego-based Strategic Vision has come up with its own matrix in evaluation customer perceptions of vehicle quality and brand loyalty. What follows is the company’s latest press release:


New Mazda3

For immediate release – Monday, November 10, 2008

San Diego – Strategic Vision today announced its 2008 Total Value Index® (TVI). TVI Scores fell across all brands reflecting economic concerns. During times of economic difficulties, automotive customers will examine the Total Value of potential vehicle choices with greater discrimination.

This greater customer scrutiny of automotive products will lead to new opportunities across all brands for the future. Customers are looking to the products to find the cues of quality that denote long term value with the best pricing, even among luxury vehicles. “When economic conditions become more favorable, the manufacturers who have focused their efforts in enhancing product quality and communicating messages of trustworthy products and overall value will be in a position to regain and even take over new market share,” reports Alexander Edwards, Strategic Vision’s president of automotive.

The economy has affected more than just the consumer’s willingness to spend money. As customers are bombarded with gloomy financial news on almost all fronts: stock markets down and fluctuating wildly, homes in foreclosure, plants closing and corporations laying off personnel, every decision has to be weighed against the individual consumer’s personal standard for Security. A vehicle purchased today must withstand even more demanding scrutiny. As a result, TVI brand scores are down across the board with a one notable exception. Pontiac made a stunning 25 point advance in TVI scores by combining competitive pricing with perceived interior quality. The Pontiac G6 is a good example of how Pontiac has exceeded customer expectations with price, value and interior quality cues.

Toyota Motor Sales is still the company to beat in customer value, although the Toyota brand was part of the overall trend of falling TVI Scores. Toyota Motor Sales has had 30 leaders in TVI over the past four years. In 2008, they add an astounding ten more: seven for Toyota (Yaris hatchback, Prius, Solara Convertible, RAV4, 4Runner, Sequoia and Tundra) and three for the Lexus (IS250/350, LS and RX400 Hybrid). Toyota’s consistent foundational messages of quality and reliability delivered over many years have generated consumer trust in Toyota products. “This trust is a crucial first step to success in today’s market,” says Dr. Darrel Edwards, Founder and CEO of Strategic Vision.

Ironically, Toyota’s strong perceived reliability and durability expectations may slow Toyota’s sales during this economic slowdown. Customers may begin to evaluate if now is the right time to purchase a new vehicle and many Toyota and Lexus buyers may decide to “put off” the purchase of their next vehicle and wait for more favorable economic conditions.

 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

General Motors did well in Total Value with four segment leaders. Chevrolet’s strong tradition of value in both the sports car fun of the Corvette and the hardworking practicality of the Tahoe and Sierra were recognized. American Honda (with the Accord, Coupe, Odyssey and Ridgeline – all 2007 leaders) and Volkswagen of America (with the A3, Q7 and Passat Wagon) each had three models leading in their segments. Mazda is also worthy of mention as customers felt that they have received the “zoom-zoom” for their money in the Mazda3 Sedan and CX-9.

Buyers rated the following vehicles top in Total Value (TVI) in their segments:

SV TVA 2008

The calculation of TVI begins with explicit statements that owners make about value (e.g. expected reliability, expected fuel economy, price paid, expected resale value, etc.). TVI then incorporates the importance of the variables that make up the ownership experience, and it is here that Strategic Vision finds “True Value” — the worth of the attribute weighed against the costs.

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