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America’s Love Affair With the Car Hasn’t Ended, Finds New JD Power Study

“Many automakers are getting better at consumers what they want.”

by on Jul.26, 2017

Porsche led the latest APEAL study overall, three models, like the 911 also winning their segments.

It’s become conventional wisdom that Americans have fallen out of love with the automobile and would just as soon click on a smartphone app to call a ride-sharing service as actually own a vehicle.

But that doesn’t seem to pan out when you read the results of the latest APEAL study by J.D. Power and Associates. If anything, a summary of the report suggests “car owners’ love affair with new vehicle is stronger than ever.”

Power to the People!

“Many automakers are getting better and better at giving consumers what they want in a vehicle,” explained Dave Sargent head of global automotive research at Power. That’s especially true in mainstream market segments, he added, as “non-premium vehicles” add more and more of the safety and infotainment technologies traditionally reserved for high-line products.

Short for Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout, the APEAL study is essentially a measure of what automakers are doing right, as opposed to so-called “things-gone-wrong” studies such as the Initial Quality Survey that Power released a month ago.

The Genesis brand came in second in both the latest Power APEAL and IQS studies.

The 2017 APEAL study posted a 9-point year-over-year increase, tying for the largest gain ever. The latest IQS study also showed a significant improvement, reflecting efforts the industry has made to both fix problems and find ways to deliver more surprise-and-delight features in their vehicles.

As has traditionally been the case, luxury brands led this year’s APEAL study, Porsche ranking number one for the 13th consecutive year with a score of 884 out of a possible 1,000. Genesis, the new luxury brand from Hyundai, was second overall, with a score of 869. Notably, Genesis was second in the 2017 IQS study, as well. BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz rounded out the top five in the latest APEAL report.

(Kia and Koreans top latest IQS study, even as Japanese slide. Click Here for the story.)

On average, luxury brands scored 845, improving 1 point year-over-year. But non-premium brands jumped by 10 points, to an average score of 804, the closest they have ever come to matching the APEAL of premium marques.

The highest-ranking mainstream manufacturer was Mini, with a score of 838 – ranking it 10th overall.

Toyota is hoping to improve its appeal with more exciting designs and more lavish features.

It’s not uncommon to find that some vehicles score well in the APEAL study, even though they don’t do nearly as well in studies like the IQS that focus on defects and other problems. But a number of products did well this year in both. That included models like the BMW 2-Series, the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan, the Kia Soul, Mini Cooper and Porsche 911.

(Genesis also lands at the top of the latest Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Click Here for more.)

Volkswagen, which is struggling to rebuild its reputation after its embarrassing diesel emissions scandal, had more individual products winning awards in the latest APEAL study than any other manufacturer – though none actually carry the VW badge. They included three Audi models, the A3, A4 and A7, as well as three from Porsche, the 911, Cayenne and Macan.

BMW, along with its Mini brand, had four segment winners, while Ford, General Motors and Hyundai each had three. Fiat Chrysler Automobile, Honda and Nissan each had two winners.

“Manufacturers are making ever higher-quality vehicles,” said Sargent, but they are not sacrificing features to ensure that quality.

Audi's new A4 was one of six segment winners from Volkswagen - more than any other maker.

That said, some of the features that seem to appeal most to consumers have also created some of the worst quality problems. While buyers are clearly pleased to get in-car WiFi, Bluetooth hands-free calling and navigation with traffic alerts, such systems also generated more complaints than traditional mechanical issues, like defective transmissions, in the latest J.D. Power IQS.

While automakers, on the whole, improved their performance in the latest J.D. Power APEAL study, a few manufacturers continued to struggle. Mitsubishi ranked last, with a score of just 750, compared to an average 804 for non-premium brands. Fiat and Jeep didn’t fare much better, with scores of 752 and 773, respectively.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the weak showing by Toyota; with a score  of 792, it ranked fourth from the bottom. And it didn’t fare much better in the most recent Power IQS, coming in at just above industry average.

That may help explain why the Japanese giant has been putting a focus on improving its designs and adding more features to products like the 2018 Camry, CEO Akio Toyoda promising to put more “passion” in the brand.

Passion is at the heart of the APEAL study, and the latest overall results suggest Americans still are in love with their automobiles.

(Click Here to see how automakers are doing a better job satisfying customers.)

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