For the first time since 1997, domestic auto brands surpassed import brands as a whole in vehicle appeal, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study released today. (See the chart at the end of the story.)
In 2010, the APEAL score for U.S. domestic brands averages 787 on a 1,000-point scale. This is 13 points higher than the score for offshore brands, defined as automakers headquartered in Europe or Asia Pacific. By comparison, in 2009, import brands outpaced domestic brands by five points. This 18-point swing is statistically relevant, and is the latest sign that Detroit makers, notably Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company are improving their products at a time when offshore brands, Toyota in particular, are having well publicized problems. (See American Automakers Dominate AutoPacific’s “Ideal Vehicles”)
Toyota finished second to last among makers with only Jeep ranked at 33rd below it. Of the Chrysler Group brands, only Ram truck finished above average and Chrysler itself finished 31st. To be fair, Toyota has never done well in the survey – last year it finished in the same 32nd spot – since its buyers are looking more for quality and durability, which the survey is not designed to measure.
In another Power study that does track quality, there is more good news for Detroit makers since the Initial Quality Survey released last month shows that Detroit makers, on the whole, made substantial improvement in the 2010, which measured out-of-the-factory quality for the latest cars, trucks and crossovers. Ford, in particular, dominates the latest study, and moves aside such stalwarts as Honda and Toyota to rank as the highest-quality mainstream brand.