More than 24,000 people who took part in the survey were asked how they obtained their car, taking JD Power into the world of parallel and grey imports for the first time.
Users of private imports were found to be more satisfied than average but less satisfied with service they received from UK dealers than those who bought from them.
DaveSargent, partner and European director of JD Power speaking at a presentation in London of the 2000 JD Power Car Customer Satisfaction Study, said it showed a decline in overall customer satisfaction after a substantial improvement last year. Owners reported fewer problems but were less satisfied with the level of service they received from dealers.
But he sympathised with dealers facing rising expectations. “People continue to want more, whether they are shopping at Tesco or at a car dealership,” he said. “Some dealers are working strongly at improving their service to customers but it becomes more and more difficult for all retailers to delight them.”
Dave Power, whose group has conducted similar surveys in the US for 20 years, expected changes at the top of the survey over the next few years. “It can take three or four years for the effects of the survey to be translated into action by manufacturers,” he said. “I believe there is a momentum for change.”
Jaguar came within one point of Subaru for the title of most satisfying brand in this year's UK survey.
Ford, Vauxhall, Rover Group and Peugeot each has two cars in the bottom 10 of the list of 115 models reviewed.
Japanese brands again do well with Subaru, Toyota and Honda filling seven of the top 10 places.
Vauxhall was the most improved manufacturer but failed to win an award because it remained below average.
Skoda, took the 'most improved' accolade, closely followed by Audi and Volvo.
Brands topping the customer satisfaction index were - Subaru, Jaguar, Skoda, Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Honda, Hyundai, Saab, Nissan and Proton.
Brands showing most improvement since last year were - Hyundai, Audi, Volvo, Jaguar, Saab, Skoda, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz.