Drivers Are More Satisfied With Their Cars, Study Finds

Porsche 911
Porsche is the highest ranking brand in the 2019 J.D. Power APEAL study.
Drivers are happier with their new vehicles thanks to improvements in infotainment systems and the increasing availability of driver assist features. This, according to the latest J.D. Power 2019 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, released this week.

J.D. Power APEAL Study

In the study, the industry average satisfaction index score increased to 823 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 820 in 2018, with 22 of the 32 brands included in the study improving from last year.

“Every automaker is producing vehicles that consumers like, but some of them are doing it at a higher level than others,” said Dave Sargent, Vice President of Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “Satisfaction with new technology is improving, but infotainment remains an area where automakers can get better. Owners have higher satisfaction if their vehicle is equipped with safety features such as blind spot monitor, collision avoidance and lane departure warning. This should serve as a positive sign for manufacturers, as these features are some of the early building blocks for fully automated vehicles.”

Here are some key findings:

  • Scores in all 10 categories improve in 2019: The study examines 10 vehicle categories, all of which have improved in appeal from 2018. Categories showing the most improvement are infotainment (+10 points) and visibility and safety (+6).
  • Gap between luxury and mass-market brands narrows: The average APEAL score for luxury brands is 853 points, compared with 818 for mass- market brands. This gap of 35 points is the narrowest in the study’s history and is down from 50 points just three years ago.
  • Satisfaction gap between cars and SUVs shrinking: The slowdown in industry improvement for 2019 vs. 2018 is primarily caused by a lack of overall improvement in cars, whereas SUVs improve by 7 points. Cars continue to outperform SUVs for fuel economy and engine/transmission, largely because cars are lighter than SUVs. However, SUVs gain the advantage in most other areas, including driving dynamics; storage and space; visibility and safety; and seats. “Fuel economy will always be an important consideration for shoppers, but they are increasingly wowed by the capability of modern SUVs,” Sargent said.

Highest-Ranked Brands

In general, larger and more expensive vehicles achieve higher APEAL scores than smaller and less expensive vehicles. A brand’s ranking, therefore, is a function of the types of vehicles the manufacturer produces and how well it executes on those vehicles.

  • Porsche ranks highest in overall APEAL with a score of 891. BMW and Genesis rank second in a tie with 868, followed by Audi (867) and Volvo (863).
  • Ram ranks highest in the mass-market segment with a score of 851. Dodge (848) ranks second, followed by MINI (835), Volkswagen (829) and Ford (828).
  • Ram is the most-improved brand, increasing 26 points from 2018. Other brands showing significant improvement are Dodge (+24); Jaguar (+16); Land Rover (+15); Audi (+14); and Jeep (+14).

Segment-Level Model APEAL Awards

The parent company receiving the most model-level awards for its various brands is Ford Motor Co. (five model-level awards), followed by BMW AG with four.

Individual Model Awards By Brand:

  • Ford Motor Co.: Ford Expedition; Ford F-150; Ford Ranger; Ford Super Duty; and Lincoln Navigator
  • BMW AG: BMW 2 Series; BMW X4; MINI Cooper; and MINI Countryman
  • General Motors Company: Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Terrain
  • Honda Motor Company: Honda Accord and Honda Odyssey
  • Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.: Nissan Altima and Nissan Maxima
  • Toyota Motor Corporation: Toyota Camry and Toyota Yaris
  • Volkswagen AG: Audi A7 and Porsche Cayenne
  • Daimler AG: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: Dodge Challenger
  • Hyundai Motor Group: Kia Forte

The Audi A7 is the highest-scoring model in the study overall. Receiving a model-level award for a third straight year are Ford F-150 and Porsche Cayenne. Ford Expedition, Honda Accord, MINI Countryman and Nissan Maxima each receive a model-level award for a second consecutive year.

About the J.D. Power APEAL Study

The 2019 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study measures owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle across 77 attributes, ranging from the power they feel when they step on the gas to the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat. These attributes are combined into an overall APEAL index score measured on a 1,000-point scale.

The study, now in its 24th year, is based on responses gathered from February 2019 through May 2019 from nearly 68,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2019 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study, which complements the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, is used extensively by manufacturers worldwide to help them design and develop more appealing vehicles and by consumers to help them in their purchase decisions.
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