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Downsizing Doesn't Require Buyers to Sacrifice Vehicle Appeal

By Jeff Youngs, July 27, 2012
Compact models delight new-vehicle buyers and lessees just as much as some larger vehicles as consumers continue to shift to smaller vehicles in the U.S., according to our 2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

Consumers who down are not making the sacrifice that they once had to make. In fact, automakers are heavily focused on providing the U.S. market with appealing smaller vehicles and consumers may even be surprised at just how good some of these models are.

In the APEAL Study, it is generally the case that all-new and/or redesigned models perform better than their award segment averages. This year, more than one-half (25 of 41) earn better scores than their award segment averages. Among all-new or redesigned compact or sub-compact models, the all-new Chevrolet Sonic outpaces the Sub-compact Car award segment average by 28 points, while the redesigned Volkswagen Passat surpasses the Mid Car segment average by 38 points.

Other all-new or redesigned small or compact models that outperform their award segment averages in terms of delighting their new-vehicle owners this year include the Buick Verano, Fiat 500, Ford Focus, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Toyota Prius v and the Volkswagen Beetle.

This year, the average APEAL score of compact/sub-compact models is 765 (on a 1,000-point scale), which is the same as the average APEAL score for mid vehicles in 2008. At the same time, in 2012, the average APEAL score of Mid Premium models is 844, which is the same as the average score for Large Premium models in 2008.

Our study results also indicate that more than one-fourth (27%) of new-vehicle buyers who replaced a vehicle "downd," meaning that they purchased a new model in a smaller vehicle segment than the vehicle replaced. In contrast, only 13% of buyers or lessees "upd," while 60% stayed within the same vehicle segment.

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