As if Tesla's (TSLA 2.82%) Model S hasn't scooped up enough accolades already, the top selling luxury car can now count one more to its name: the top spot of Strategic Vision's Total Quality Index. What does this mean? In short, the Model S is striking a new key with owners -- and it's a sweet one that other manufacturers may have trouble imitating.
Strategic Vision says that its 19th annual Total Quality Index study is a pivotal one.
TQI absolutely offers a glimpse into the future, as it did seven years ago when we headlined our TQI results, '... Perceived Quality the New Paradigm ...' where we predicted Hyundai's successes through 2013," says Alexander Edwards, President of Strategic Vision.
In 2007, Strategic Vision explained, critics questioned the research company's prediction of Hyundai's success through 2013. But today, "[N]o one can deny the success Hyundai enjoyed."
Now Strategic Vision is back with a new bet on electric-car maker Tesla Motors. The company says the fact that the Tesla Model S is ranked the Best Model in Total Quality could be "predictive" of the future. According to Christopher Chaney, Strategic Vision's senior vice president:
All I can say to manufacturers is prepare to listen carefully to what car buyers are saying through these scores, be nimble and include "True Innovation" that is bold and smart. ... Tesla built a vehicle that generated love in attributes that were most important to segment buyers. Tesla isn't an electric vehicle that just has good features, but instead it's a luxurious sports sedan that has "True Innovation," as well as a rocket-like speed and drive feeling, that just happens to be an electric vehicle. I would call on all manufacturers looking toward electrification to implement a mantra of building super cool transportation that impresses the heck out of customers, and "happens to be electric." Very few people are looking for an overpriced electric breadbox/toaster with nothing cool. Consumers are powerful, have the Internet and know how to use calculators.
Not only did the Model S take first place as the best model, it also received a higher score in that category (963) than any other category surveyed. The second-highest score came from the premium convertible/roadster category, with the Mercedes SL-Class topping the list at 957.
Strategic Vision speaks boldly about its TQI, saying that it is a holistic measure of the key facets that drive "excitement and other measures that collectively are energized by the emotional response associated with the aggregate of all those experiences – hence Total Quality." The results represent "something meaningful and predictive," said Strategic Vision founder and executive chairman Darrel Edwards, Ph.D.
It's important to note that, like the Consumer Reports' owner survey in which Tesla Model S drivers gave their vehicles a 99 out of 100, Strategic Vision's study is a measure of the excitement among owners -- not consumers. So, this isn't a mind-share survey.
Of course, owner excitement can also be an important driver of sales -- especially for a company that only sold about 22,500 vehicles in 2013. Tesla's high level of owner satisfaction is undoubtedly key to Tesla's strong word-of-mouth marketing.
Will the excitement be sustainable after early adopters begin to dwindle? The outlook appears favorable. The Model S is renowned for its performance by outsiders, too. Automobile Magazine named the car the "Automobile of the Year" in 2013. Motor Trend also ranked the model first. Consumer Reports' ratings from its own critics even matched the Model S owner ratings of 99 points out of 100.
And until other manufacturers begin offering compelling fully electric vehicles with exhilarating acceleration, meaningful range, and an increasingly comprehensive network of fast charging stations, Tesla also offers an entirely unique experience that can't be found elsewhere. Meanwhile, Tesla is putting the plans in place to bring its more affordable all-electric vehicle to a much larger class of buyers: the mass market.