Quality lags, but sales experience shines for Mini, Fiat

Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:59pm EST

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Nov 28 (Reuters) - Fiat and Mini, two brands that finished at or near the bottom of JD Power's annual survey of vehicle quality, were among the highest-rated in the firm's recent study of U.S. car dealers and the retail experience.

BMW's Mini was the leading mass-market brand and Fiat the fourth-best in Power's 2012 Sales Satisfaction Index, the market research firm said Wednesday.

Earlier this year, in Power's 2012 Initial Quality Study, Fiat tied for last place, with Mini just above it.

The Sales Satisfaction Index is a measure of car buyers' experience, including customer satisfaction with the dealer.

Luxury brands tend to dominate the index - a measure of how dealers of those brands treat affluent shoppers, compared with mainstream brands. This year, they held all but two of the top 10 slots.

Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus ranked highest among all brands for the second straight year, while Nissan Motor Co's Infiniti jumped from eighth to second.

Two premium Detroit-based brands - General Motors Co's Cadillac and Ford Motor Co's Lincoln - placed third and fourth, respectively.

All four of GM's domestic brands placed well among the mass-market brands in sales satisfaction, with Buick finishing second behind Mini and GMC third ahead of Fiat.

The 2012 Sales Satisfaction Index is based on responses from more than 30,000 customers who bought or leased a new vehicle in May and were interviewed between August and October.

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