Joe asks Jody Victor®: Best Quality Cars, 2012

Did you ever wonder how auto makers figure out where they went wrong? What could they improve? What makes us happy or unhappy with a vehicle? Me, too! That’s why I asked Jody Victor® to tell us about it.

Jody Victor®: Hey, Joe, the answer is:  surveys! Customer satisfaction surveys go a long way to tell manufacturers what they are doing right, but more importantly, what they might be doing wrong. Here’s a list, in 4 parts, of quality vehicles from an article by Clifford Atiyeh of

Top Subcompact Car: Toyota Yaris

The Yaris, with its old 4-speed automatic transmission and plebian interior, isn’t a stellar compact car compared with its more sophisticated competition. The redesigned, edgier 2012 model carries over much of the same equipment. But befitting a typical Toyota, the Yaris is cheap to maintain and simple to operate in either hatchback or sedan form. Toyota, at 88 problems per 100 vehicles, clearly has something right on its hands.

Top Compact Car: Toyota Corolla

Is it any wonder the world’s best-selling car winds up here? The Corolla name is nearly as old as Mustang, and when it comes to no-frills, dead-reliable transport, nothing is more renowned. Like the Yaris, the current Corolla is outclassed by its many rivals in technology, design and performance. That doesn’t seem to matter.

Top Compact Sporty Car: Mazda MX-5 Miata

When it was introduced 23 years ago, the Miata was meant to re-create the spirit of those iconic British roadsters — the lightweight and zippy MGs, Austin Healeys and Triumphs. What it left out were the atrocious electrical failures and other mechanical problems that plagued those old roadsters. A true enthusiast’s car, the Miata sets the standard for affordable sports cars that can go the long mile.

Top Compact Premium Sporty Car: Volvo C70

Refreshed for 2011, the Volvo C70 is an attractive alternative to the usual crop of $40,000 German convertibles. The folding hardtop, floating center control stack and understated interior blend well with the car’s turbocharged engines. But don’t get confused; the C70 is a cruiser, not a corner-dicing sports car. Safety, of course, is paramount; the C70 was the world’s first convertible with head curtain airbags.

Top Entry Premium Car: Lexus ES

Lexus once again leads the J.D. Power list as the most reliable automaker, with an average of 73 problems per 100 vehicles. The ES 350 is all new for 2013, with a more aggressive front end and sculpted interior, plus a hybrid trim. In any model year, the ES is smooth, steers with a finger and offers a lot of luxury for the money.

Thanks, Jody! More next time.

Joe Victor