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Business

German Cars Disappoint Car Owners

Mercedes and BMW for all their glamour, aren't the preferred choice of German car-owners, according to two surprising new surveys released this week.

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Luxury car Mercedes doesn't inspire the same consumer confidence it used to

When it comes to overall ratings, nothing tops the charts like a Mercedes Benz. But for everyday use, German car-owners prefer Japanese cars to the legendary names of their native country.

The stunning news is the result of two surveys conducted separately by car magazine AutoBILD and German car-insurer ADAC. The so-called Automarxx survey, conducted by ADAC with the Center for Automotive Research at Gelsenkirchen Technical College, asked more than 38,000 car owners to rank international car companies in terms of consumer satisfaction.

The German automobile industry's first entry on the list is Porsche at number eight. Toyota and Honda lead a pack of Asian rivals in the first seven spots.

The study, which will first be released to the public next week, is sure to disappoint the likes of Mercedes and Audi, who apparently enjoy a better reputation abroad than at home.

Not even in the top five

Covering a range of areas from company strength and market position to design and environmental friendliness, the latest Automarxx survey is the first to feature a Consumer Satisfaction section.

The consumer questionnaires looked at both the products and service of 33 manufacturers, and included ratings of electronics, motor power and comfort as well as of cost and standards of garage work.

While German brands Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche still occupy the top five of the Overall Rating section, they barely figure in the Consumer Satisfaction top ten, beaten by Toyota at number one, followed by other Asian competitors such as Subaru, Honda and Mazda.

Quality over image

Auto 2004 Mazda RX-8, Autoshow in Detroit

Auto Mazda, Autoshow in Detroit, 2004 Mazda RX-8

The competition is not surprised by the results. Speaking from the Essen Motor Show, which opened on Thursday, Mazda's Peter Tuhl told Deutsche Welle that Mazda's position in the top five reflected the Japanese company's enduringly high technical standards.

He said a Mazda owner experiences "lasting satisfaction." A German car owner, on the other hand, is more like a "disappointed lover who realizes the first promises aren't going to come true".

The survey results seem to back up the mark. Mercedes has no problem with its image, but rather with its follow-through, according to the results.

Dr. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, who led the survey, said the emphasis German companies like Mercedes place on innovation comes at the expense of production quality.

"Every technical innovation increases the risk of a break-down," he says."In this respect, Toyota is more conservative, which may not be good for its image, but is very beneficial in terms of reliability."

"Made in Germany" loses clout

The AutoBILD survey confirms the trend. The first German entry on the list is BMW at number five, again trumped by Asian rivals.

VW CEO Dr. Bernd Pischetsrieder admitted to AutoBILD that "in technical terms, Toyota is better then us. But not just us."

The results of the Automarxx survey are a blow to Stuttgart-based Mercedes in particular, which comes in at an astonishingly low number 32. Other German manufacturers fared equally badly, with Volkswagen at number 31 and Opel only four places higher.

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