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Buying a Smaller Vehicle Does Not Mean Sacrificing Seat Quality, Satisfaction

Buying a Smaller Vehicle Does Not Mean Sacrificing Seat Quality, Satisfaction

By Jeff Youngs, August 23, 2012
Owner satisfaction with vehicle seats is increasing, according to results in our 2012 U.S. Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study. In addition, seat satisfaction among compact and sub-compact vehicle owners averages 7.5 points on a 10-point scale, a significant improvement from owner satisfaction with smaller-vehicle seats 4 years ago in our 2008 study. This is noteworthy since market share for smaller vehicle models has grown to 35.4% of industry sales in the first 7 months of 2012 from 32.0% in 2008, and more than one-fourth (27%) of new-vehicle owners this year have replaced their current vehicle with a smaller 2012 model.

Along with this year's sales growth in compact and sub-compact model segments, the market penetration of seat features in these vehicles has also risen. Our study finds that market penetration in the compact and sub-compact vehicle segments for heated seats has increased by 16 percentage points, compared with the 2008 study, while leather seat penetration in these small vehicle models has increased by 10 percentage points. Memory seat penetration also is up by 3 points, and cooled/ventilated seats by 2 points.

Our latest Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study, which is based on responses from more than 74,700 owners of new 2012 model-year cars and light trucks, indicates that owners have high expectations for their vehicle seats, and that purchasing a smaller model doesn't mean buyers want to sacrifice amenities, especially related to seats. A vehicle's interior is more important to vehicle owners now than in our past studies, and seats are paramount to driver and passenger comfort. In fact, according to our 2012 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), owners cite interior comfort as the second-most-common reason to select their new vehicle.

Manufacturers recognize the importance of seat comfort and quality and are selecting suppliers who can provide the best seats available to integrate into their vehicles. A few findings from our latest study:
  • Overall satisfaction with seats is higher, but seat quality remains the same as in 2011--5.5 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). That's still an improvement from 6.2 PP100 in 2008.
  • Satisfaction with seat headrests has advanced slightly form 2011. A majority (73%) of those owners who experienced no problems with headrests are much more likely to recommend their vehicle to family and friends.
  • Also, nearly half of owners (46%) who didn't experience a headrest problem also say they "definitely will" repurchase a vehicle of the same brand.
  • Among owners who experienced one or more problems with a headrest, just 27% said they "definitely will" purchase the same brand vehicle again.
  • Less than one-third of owners said they have special feature seats--memory seats; cooled/ventilated seats; adjustable reclining rear seats--in their current vehicle but a majority (more than 90%) would like these same features in their next new vehicle.
  • A majority of new-vehicle owners who have fold-down rear seats, heated seats, or power lumbar support seats in their vehicle want these same features in their next new car or truck.

Our latest Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study research indicates that seats are a constant touch point for vehicle owners, and central to providing a comfortable driving experience. Owners clearly are looking for more features and comfort from their vehicle seats, and it is evident there is an opportunity for manufacturers to raise the bar.

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