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Volvo’s XC60 was the top-ranked vehicle in the 2019 IVA.

Today’s cars are, on the whole, built better than ever, with higher quality and reliability, never mind lots of new safety, comfort and performance features. How do you pick the right car for you, though? Research firm AutoPacific, Inc. queried over 50,000 U.S. motorists to see what models they picked, and some of the results are surprising.

Volvo and Ram, two brands that normally don’t set the world on fire when it comes to initial quality  nonetheless led the 2019 Ideal Vehicle Awards list, the Swedes named number one premium brand, while Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s truck division was not only the choice for popular brand but the number one marque overall in this year’s IVA.

“The Ideal Vehicle Awards recognize vehicles that best meet their owner’s expectations and desires,” explained AutoPacific chief George Peterson. “They are optimum for their owners. Owners don’t want them bigger, smaller, faster or more fuel efficient. This shows that planners, designers and engineers understand just the buyers want and have provided a product closely targeted to their needs and desires.”

The Ram brand was the top “popular” brand and the number one-ranked brand overall this year.

(Germans, Japanese struggle, according to latest JD Power IQS, even as Koreans, Americans improve. Click Here for more.)

To come up with the awards, AutoPacific researchers asked owners to rate their vehicles on a broad list of attributes, including performance, fuel economy, design, safety features, quietness, infotainment systems and interior storage.

Most manufacturers still fell short of customer expectations, at least in some key areas, which represents “major opportunities for automakers to improve,” said Peterson.

The study underscores the dramatic shift that has taken place in the U.S. automotive market in recent years. On the whole, light trucks – including pickups, SUVs and crossover-utility vehicles – outperformed sedans and other passenger car models, especially when it comes to owner perceptions about visibility, technology, interior quietness and safety features.

Tesla landed wins in two segments, including Luxury EV Car.

(What are the most satisfying vehicles on the market? Click Here for the results of the latest Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.)

“SUVs continue to grow in popularity by giving consumers car-like fuel economy and better overall design, including technology and visibility. We will most certainly see continued growth in SUV sales, coupled with a decline in car sales,” said Peterson.

All told, 11 different manufacturers collected wins in the individual categories. Volvo’s XC60 was the highest-rated vehicle overall and won in the “Aspirational Luxury Crossover SUV” category.

American brands collectively earned eight of those awards, but that was down from 14 in the 2018 IVA. Asian brands took 13 trophies, up from five last year. And European marques saw their wins slip from eight to just three this year.

The Mercedes-Benz GLA was the lowest-rank model among all those in the 2019 Ideal Vehicle Awards.

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Nissan, FCA and Honda each won awards in four different vehicle categories, while Subaru bested the competition in three.

Tesla, which typically does not participate in automotive studies focused on quality and reliability, nabbed two trophies in the IVA, the Model 3 ranked tops in the “Luxury EV Car” category, while the Model X was named number one in the “Luxury EV Crossover SUV” segment. That reflects the California automaker’s position as the best-selling EV manufacturer.

Chevrolet’s outgoing “C7” Corvette was named the top model in the “Sports Car” category.

Mercedes-Benz, which failed to land any awards in the 2019 IVA, did have the dubious honor of having the lowest-ranked model of all those included in the research effort, the compact GLA crossover.