Which automaker manufactures the best vehicles – VW, Toyota, Chrysler or Ford?

Volkswagen or Toyota. Toyota or Volkswagen. Both manufacturers have their fans and proponents, and there’s evidence to support them.

Both automakers can stake a claim to leading important industry measures of quality. VW has the “best total quality” and Toyota the “fewest problems,” according to the 2012 Total Quality Awards compiled by Strategic Vision research group of San Diego, CA.

Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Group follow VW in total quality, the research group reports, and Honda with three vehicles atop the ratings in their respective categories.

“With near universal acceptance that manufacturers are running the tightest ‘quality race’ ever, customers are increasingly defining ‘quality’ holistically and using Total Quality in their decisions. Total Quality measures how closely the experience of quality matches the explicit desires of the customer,” according to a press release issued recently by Strategic Vision.

Toyota scored lowest on the auto consulting firm’s “Problem Impact Measure” (PIM), with only 17 percent of owners reporting problems, but PIM is only part of “Total Quality.”

“This is really great news for all those corporations, but the key to success and sales will be products that satisfy the customer’s increasingly insatiable need for innovation, and the complete picture of Quality,” says Strategic Vision President, Alexander Edwards. That complete picture reflects a combination of the actual number of problems reported as well as consumer’s perceptions of problems.

Five models, with their categories in parentheses, led the Total Quality competition: Audi A8 Sedan (Luxury Car), BMW Z4 Roadster (Premium Convertible/Roadster), BMW X6 (Luxury Utility), Land Rover Evoque 5-Door (Near-Luxury Utility) and MINI Cooper Coupe (Specialty Coupe).

Three manufacturers finished first in quality in three categories: Volkswagen with Golf, Eos and Tiguan; Ford with Flex, F-150 and F-250/350, and Honda with Accord Crosstour, Odyssey and Ridgeline.

“The real message is that innovation is connected to perceptions of quality,” said Strategic Vision. “If innovation is strong, especially such that customers can say they ‘love it,’ when referring to the product, then perceptions of quality will be greatly (positively) influenced.

“Strategic Vision research has proven that those who recognize and acknowledge innovation (most new car buyers) will purchase, and not just be driven by counting problems.”

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