The Most Highly Recommended Cars

Loving something is one thing; recommending it to a friend, now that’s something else again. For example, we presume you love your wife, but would you recommend her to a friend? OK, perhaps we’re straying a bit from the topic at hand here, which is automobiles, and more specifically, those automobiles that consumers are most likely to recommend to friends. It is, when you think about it, a good measure to examine. It goes beyond mere satisfaction, putting some of the onus on the person who is considering making a recommendation. (By the way, would you recommend your wife to a friend?)

AutoPacific, a California-based market research firm, has just used this gambit to get a new handle on the best cars and trucks in the land. The company did this by analyzing recommendation intentions from 25,000 new-car drivers who purchased or leased new cars or light trucks from September to December of 2008…and what a fine period that was.

“Typically, car buyers are very pleased when they first drive their new car off the dealer lot. But just as a vehicle’s worth depreciates over time, some car owners’ level of confidence depreciates,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “We have quantified their level of confidence to see which new-car owners will recommend their model most, and this is information which will help new car shoppers make informed, confident buying decisions. While many owners can be happy with their new cars, it takes another level of confidence to recommend it.”

So which brand of vehicle leads the pack? Perhaps unsurprisingly it is Porsche. In a close race, the vaunted luxury sports car brand garnered the highest owner recommendation of 91 percent. It is no mystery that Porsche owners love their cars and are evangelistic about them.

“Porsche owners’ feelings for their cars run deep; some might call it devotion,” Peterson said. “Clearly that is still the case as the Porsche lineup all scored well in this survey.”

While Porsche scored big on the brand side, a lesser-known vehicle took the top spot among individual models. The vehicle -- car or truck -- registering the highest overall owner recommendation in 2009 is the Infiniti G37, which was recommended by 95 percent of new owners. The truck with the highest overall recommendation score is the Ford F-150, recommended by 89 percent of its owners. In a tie, the SUVs with the highest overall recommendation score are the GMC Yukon XL and Honda CR-V. They were recommended by 93 percent of their owners.

At the manufacturer level, multiple top-ranking award winners include the following: Toyota with six top rankings (Toyota 6, Lexus 2), Ford with four (Ford 5, Lincoln 1), General Motors with two (Chevy 1, GMC 1), Chrysler with two (Jeep 1, Dodge 1) and Honda with one. The research objectively measured owner recommendations of newly purchased or leased passenger cars or light trucks by ranking owners’ responses to the question “Would you recommend your new vehicle to a friend or relative?” Scores are based on the responses, with choices ranging from “Yes, definitely,” “Yes, with reservations” or “No.” An “NFW” response was not included in the survey questions.

Models top-ranked for their percentage of owner recommendations were also identified in individual vehicle categories. Here are the winners:

Passenger Cars
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS
Executive Luxury Car: Jaguar XF
Aspirational Luxury Car: Infiniti G37
Large Car: Toyota Avalon
Luxury Mid-Size Car: Lexus ES
Premium Mid-Size Car: Toyota Camry
Mid-Size Car: Volkswagen Jetta
Image Compact Car: Toyota Prius
Mainstream Compact Car: Subaru Impreza
Economy Car: Honda Fit
Premium Sports Car: Chevrolet Corvette
Sports Car: Nissan 350Z
Sporty Car: Ford Mustang

Light Trucks
Large Light-duty Pickup: Ford F-150
Large Heavy-duty Pickup: Ford F-Super Duty
Compact Pickup: Toyota Tacoma
Luxury Sport Utility: Lincoln Navigator
Large Sport Utility: GMC Yukon XL
Premium Midsize Sport Utility: Toyota 4Runner
Midsize Sport Utility: Dodge Nitro
Compact SUV/Off-road Vehicle: Jeep Wrangler
Luxury Crossover SUV: Land Rover LR2
Large Crossover SUV: Ford Flex
Premium Midsize Crossover SUV: Ford Edge
Mainstream Midsize Crossover SUV: Honda CR-V
Compact Crossover SUV: Honda Element
Minivan: Toyota Sienna