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Porsche appeals most in US

Bitter sweet: Porsche’s Cayenne was rated the most appealing model in its segment, beating the BMW X6 and Audi Q7, despite scoring poorly in this year’s JD Power Initial Quality Study.

New-car appeal reaches all-time high in US, despite initial quality fall: JD Power

General News logo28 Jul 2011

PORSCHE remains the most appealing automotive brand in the United States, with the German sportscar marque this week announced as the highest-ranking nameplate for the seventh consecutive year in JD Power and Associates’ annual APEAL study.

The study, which refers to ‘Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout’, examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 attributes including looks, safety and performance.

The latest results show that overall vehicle appeal has reached an all-time high in the 15 years since JD Power first began surveying car owners on how much they enjoyed their purchases, with the industry average increasing to 781 (on a 1000-point scale) this year – up from 778 in 2010.

The study also found that recently launched redesigned models – or all-new entrants to the market – are substantially more appealing than those that have had no significant upgrade in the past year, a result JD Power says was driven partly by higher ratings for vehicle styling and fuel economy.

With specific models, Porsche’s Cayenne SUV, BMW’s X3 SUV and Z4 Roadster and Ford’s Fiesta light car were among 20 category winners in the APEAL study, despite receiving the lowest overall quality score in their respective category in JD Power’s Initial Quality Study (IQS) released in June.

Indeed, 10 category winners in the APEAL study scored poorly in the 2011 initial quality ratings.

 center imageLeft: 2011 APEAL Nameplate Ranking - Based on a 1,000-point scale. (Source: J.D. Power and Associates US). Below: US-spec Ford Fiesta and BMW X3.

Seemingly at odds with the APEAL results, the IQS – which is based on responses from more than 73,000 purchasers or lessees of new MY2011 vehicles surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership – found that the initial quality of the latest models had “declined considerably” (10 per cent) in the space of a year, while carryover models had a better initial quality than ever before.

In explaining the dichotomy, JD Power says that redesigned models are more prone to teething problems – which is reflected in the defect-measuring IQS – but can still enjoy a high rating in the APEAL study, which from the same sample of people and across the same models looks at broader areas such as styling, spaciousness and standard features.

Ford, for example, dropped from fifth position in the IQS in 2010 to 23rd this year – a result that was attributed to problems with its new ‘MyFord Touch’ in-car communications and entertainment system.

Yet the Blue Oval brand is now pointing to the APEAL study results, in which the company claimed two category wins and was above the industry average overall, as reflecting the fact that MyFord Touch is a key reason why consumers are purchasing its vehicles.

JD Power and Associates vice-president of global vehicle research, David Sargent, said: “There are two sides of the quality coin: things gone right and things gone wrong.

“Both are of critical importance, and models that perform well on both measures generate higher levels of recommendation and, ultimately, higher loyalty to the brand.

“In general, customers are also willing to pay more for vehicles that combine high appeal with high initial quality.”

While premium brands occupied the top rankings among nameplates – spanning 32 brands this year, one fewer than last year with Ram now separated from Dodge – Hyundai was the biggest mover, rising from 28th last year to 15th with a 33-point increase.

Other notable results included Chrysler moving up 10 places this year to 21st on the back of an extra 27 points, and Toyota climbing from second-last place in 2010 (32nd) to 27th this year with an 18-point increase.

Suzuki’s position at the tail end of the field this year marked a slip of two places and 16 points, down from 750 points last year to 734. However, the Japanese brand topped the mid-size car segment with its Kizashi, beating the next-best Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers described the result as “tremendous feedback from satisfied owners” and said the company’s research “shows similar levels of satisfaction here in Australia”.

Dodge was equal-best with BMW in taking out three category wins with the Charger (large car), Durango (mid-size SUV) and Challenger (mid-size sporty car), the latter surpassing even the Australian-designed and engineered Chevrolet Camaro.

BMW topped the tables with the X3 (entry premium SUV), 5 Series (mid-size premium car), and Z4 (compact premium sporty car), but its 7 Series was not good enough to beat the Hyundai Equus in the large premium car segment.

As well as Fiesta taking sub-compact car honours, Ford claimed top billing with F-150 in the large pick-up class, while Chevrolet – which was well below the 781-point industry average overall on 774 – ranked highest with its Volt plug-in hybrid in the compact-car class.

Besides the Cayenne’s win in the mid-size premium SUV class, other top-ranked vehicles were the Lexus IS (entry premium car), Mini Countryman (compact SUV), Scion xB (compact MPV), Nissan Armada (large SUV), Range Rover Vogue (large premium SUV) and Honda’s Ridgeline (mid-size pick-up) and Odyssey (minivan/people-mover).

JD Power said the APEAL study demonstrates how car-makers are fighting to win customers by offering “the most appealing vehicles in history” as the industry battles through another difficult year.

“The auto industry has taken a battering during the past few years,” Mr Sargent said. “However, it is clear that throughout this period, auto-makers have never lost sight of the fact that survival – and ultimately success – only comes from winning over customers in the showroom.

“Offering highly appealing vehicles is one of the primary means to succeed.”

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