Lincoln buyers are the happiest in the industry, the 2004 J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction Index Survey (CSI) finds.

Ford Motor Co.’s domestic luxury brand set an all-time record in terms of satisfying customers with dealer service. Lincoln earned an index score of 912, topping Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand’s 903 set in 2001.

This is the first time Lincoln has risen to the top of J.D. Power’s 23-year-old study.

J.D. Power calculates CSI by measuring the satisfaction of 97,000 owners with the dealer service department during the first three years of vehicle ownership, which spans the minimum time period typically covered under warranty.

Satisfaction is broken down into six categories, including: service initiation, quality, service personnel interaction, dealership experience and service-delivery user-friendliness.

A total of 39 brands were included in the study for 2004. Lincoln rode a 17-point improvement vs. 2003 to the top of the list.

General Motors Corp.’s Buick (909), Cadillac (904) and Saturn (901) brands finished second, fourth and sixth, respectively, while Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s Infiniti brand (908) and Lexus (902) took third and fifth.

All of GM’s domestic brands finished above the industry average of 862 points, while Ford brand cars and Chrysler Group’s Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep finished below average.

The bottom three performers in 2004 all were GM affiliates: Suzuki Motor Corp., Isuzu Motors. Ltd. and the now-defunct Daewoo brand.

The biggest improvements over 2003 were posted by Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand and Ford’s Jaguar, with both boasting 31 point surges vs. 2003, which was good enough to place both brands in the top 10.a