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2014 APEAL Study Results

2014 APEAL Study Results

By Jeff Youngs, July 23, 2014

Technological innovations in new vehicles often grab shoppers' attention, but they don't guarantee improved customer satisfaction. The just-published J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) StudySM suggests that owners of new vehicles that have been considerably updated aren't significantly more satisfied than owners of carryover models.

The APEAL Study, now in its 19th year, serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle appeal. New-vehicle owners who participate in the study evaluate their vehicle across 77 attributes, and based on their responses, a numerical score (on a 1,000-point scale) is calculated for each model. The overall industry APEAL score in 2014 is 794, a 1-point decrease from 2013. The overall APEAL score for all-new and redesigned models is 805, compared with 791 for carryover models.

Customer satisfaction in areas such as fuel economy and the attractiveness of interior materials and features is higher among owners of all-new and redesigned models than among owners of carryover models, but the study shows less difference in terms of the usefulness of the controls and functions in navigation, voice recognition, and other technology applications.

"Manufacturers often look to new features and technologies to keep their vehicles fresh and attractive, but designing systems that consumers find intuitive and easy to use has been a challenge," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. "Newly launched models surpass carryovers in impressing owners with the look and feel of the vehicle. But as we also see in our 2014 Initial Quality Study, owners are not as comfortable with the functionality of the features. To differentiate new models from the pack, automakers must continue to design systems that are not just attractive, but also intuitive and easy to use."

Satisfaction with Fuel Economy Increases, but Still Lags Behind
Owner satisfaction with fuel economy rises by 6 points in this year's study: the only category that has seen improvement year-over-year. This is partly due to an average decline in fuel prices of 3% during the survey period, compared with the same period in 2013. Owner-reported average fuel efficiency also improves, to 25.0 mpg compared with 24.5 in 2013. However, despite the increase in satisfaction, fuel economy is still a problem area for automakers.

"Despite improvements this year, fuel economy continues to be the lowest-scoring category in the study by a wide margin," said Stephens. "While many factors influence the fuel performance of a vehicle, an important factor is how the engine and transmission are tuned by the manufacturers. Automakers must find the right balance between owner expectations of fuel economy and areas that affect the driving experience, such as horsepower and transmission performance, which is not an easy task. Customers are not always happy with the trade-off between those characteristics."

Porsche is Top Overall Brand for 10th Consecutive Year, Hyundai Leads Non-Premium Nameplates
Among auto brands, Porsche is the highest-ranked nameplate in APEAL for a 10th consecutive year. Hyundai ranks highest among non-premium brands included in the study, and is also the highest-ranked non-premium brand in the J.D. Power 2014 Initial Quality StudySM (IQS). This marks the first time a nameplate has ranked highest among non-premium brands in both APEAL and IQS in the same year.

Both Dodge and Porsche receive three segment awards: Dodge for the Challenger, Charger, and Dart; Porsche for the 911, Boxster, and Cayenne. Audi, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan each receive two segment awards: Audi for the A8 (tie) and Q5; Ford for the F-150 and F-250/F-350 Super Duty; Mercedes-Benz for the CLS-Class and S-Class (tie); and Nissan for the Rogue and Quest.

Also receiving awards are the BMW 4 Series; GMC Yukon; Honda Ridgeline; Hyundai Accent; Kia Soul; Land Rover Range Rover; Mazda 6; Mini Countryman; Toyota Highlander; and Volkswagen GTI.

Consumer Tips
Based on the 2014 APEAL Study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
  • Before you start shopping, find out which automakers are offering makes or models that are all-new for this year, or extensively redesigned.
  • Consider vehicles that feature notable changes to the powertrain, especially those that promise improved fuel efficiency.
  • Before buying, test technological innovations to ensure that they're efficient, easy to use, and worth paying for.
  • If the vehicle you decide to buy is a carryover or nearly so, save by buying last year's model.

About the Study
The APEAL Study examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive. Manufacturers worldwide use the study to help them design and develop more appealing vehicles; consumers use it to help them make purchase decisions. The 2014 APEAL Study is based on responses gathered between February and May 2014 from more than 86,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 model-year cars and light trucks, who were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership. The APEAL Study complements the Initial Quality Study (IQS), which focuses on problems experienced by owners during the first 90 days of ownership.

Additional Research:

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