TrueCar Hands Out Auto Maker Report Card

Car makers around the world are getting their report cards early: this Friday, the auto analyst firm TrueCar augmented their considerable body of consumer reporting for 2011 with a new set of “Performance Scorecards” that rate auto makers according to a diverse set of metrics. To establish these “grades,” TrueCar includes commercial factors like market share, as well as what the companies are willing to give their buyers, including factors like pricing and incentives. Customer loyalty, usually regarded as a good barometer of overall market performance, is also added into the mix.

What came out for last month is a win for big domestic manufacturer General Motors, a company that emerged with an A+. Niche seller Porsche and the popular Korean Hyundai company both got As. At the other end of the spectrum, Nissan and Honda tied with a C-, Mazda got a D+, and the relatively obscure Saab got a D. Those rising to the head of the class along with GM included Volkswagen, which got an upgrade from a B in the previous report to an A- in this one. Decliners featured Indian-owned Jaguar, which slid from B+ to C-, and the Bavarian Auto Works, going from A to B+.

As for specific brands of cars, Audi joined its place alongside Chevrolet and Porsche, all with an A+. Mazda, Chrysler and Infiniti all got solid Ds, and Saab got a D-.

Reports like this one from TrueCar can help consumers figure out which car makers and brands are hot on the market, but there’s no reason to stop there. Reading between the lines and digging a little deeper can get you critical information on model pricing, incentives and financing for the new or pre-owned models you have your eye on. A simple two-pronged approach can save you loads of money at the dealership. First, check around for competitive pricing on similar cars. Second, don’t settle for the “standard financing” at your dealership. If you will be financing a major portion of the cost, shop around and get the best interest rates and lowest fees, rather than trusting the dealer to get you an equitable financing agreement. A little homework can pay off big when you sign the papers at the car lot.