Safety Technologies Make New Cars More Appealing
The appeal of non-premium brands such as Chevrolet and Ford is rising as automakers increasingly offer their buyers the kinds of in-vehicle technologies once only available in more expensive premium brands. That is one of the findings in the 2015 J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.
And it is safety-related technologies, increasingly being added to new vehicles, which are especially helping to make those vehicles more appealing, according to the study.
While several other J.D. Power studies look at problems that people experience with their vehicles, or "things gone wrong," APEAL looks at what people enjoy about their vehicles, or "things gone right," after 90 days of ownership. This year's study is based on responses from 84,000 owners or lessees of a 2015-model-year vehicle.
The study looks at 77 different attributes, which are then grouped into 10 categories such as exterior and interior styling, storage and space, driving dynamics, engine/transmission, and visibility and safety.
The maximum score is 1,000, and the higher the score, the higher the vehicle's appeal. This study, in its 20th year in the U.S., included 33 brands and 208 vehicles.
The industry overall improved by 4 points this year, up to 798 from 794 last year. Domestic and European brands both improved by 6 points; Korean brands by 7 points and Japanese by 2 points.
Contributing to what the market research company called a "significant boost" in APEAL scores was blind-spot monitoring. The overall score among owners of vehicles with this safety feature was 38 points higher than among owners without it.
The study also looked at the difference in appeal between premium brands, which typically have a higher score, and non-premium brands. "And there is generally a sizable gap between the two," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality.
This year, however, the average score for non-premium brands (790) improved by 5 index points, while the score for premium brands (841) improved by only 1 point, resulting in the smallest gap between the two since 2006, she said.
Porsche ranks the highest in APEAL for the 11th consecutive year with a score of 874 points. Rounding out the top five were Jaguar (855), BMW (854), Mercedes-Benz (853), and Audi (852.) All of the premium brands were clustered at the top of the rankings. MINI was the only non-premium brand to sneak in among them with a score of 825. Lexus had the largest decline among premium brands. It dropped from 6th to 10th and was 13 points worse than last year.
The bottom five included Toyota in 29th place with a score of 781, followed by Jeep in 30th place (763), Mitsubishi in 31st (755), Fiat in 32nd (749), and Smart in last place with a score of 683.
Ford moved up four positions from last year to 19th place based on improvements to two vehicles: The F-150 improved by 49 points and the Mustang by 55 points.
On the model level, several brands received multiple awards for vehicles that ranked most appealing in their segments.
Chevrolet, Ford, and Porsche each won three awards. Chevrolet won for the Colorado, Corvette, and Sonic; Ford for the C-Max, Expedition, and F-150; and Porsche for the Cayenne, Cayman, and Macan.
Winning two awards each were Audi, BMW, Dodge, Mazda, and MINI. Audi won for the A3 and Q3; BMW for the 4 Series and 6 Series; Dodge for the Challenger and Charger; Mazda for the CX-5 and Mazda6; and MINI for the MINI Cooper and Countryman.
Cheryl began writing about the auto industry in 1996. Her reports have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Better Homes and Gardens magazine. She has covered rallies in South America, Australia, the 1992 Paris-Moscow-Beijing Raid, and in 1996 was the first American woman to finish the Dakar Rally. She has a bachelor's degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Cheryl resides in New Hampshire.