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Fuel Economy, Infotainment, and Safety Categories Improve Most in 2016 U.S. APEAL Study

Fuel Economy, Infotainment, and Safety Categories Improve Most in 2016 U.S. APEAL Study

By Philly Murtha, July 31, 2016
Overall customer satisfaction with the performance and design of new vehicles improves in 2016, up 3 index points (on a 1,000-point scale) from last year, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM In fact, compared with the 2015 study, index scores have improved in nine of the 10 categories that are measured.

The most improved category in this year’s APEAL Study, based on responses from 80,157 new-vehicle buyers/lessees after the first 90 days, is Fuel Economy, which rises 14 points from 2015. However, the major score increase is likely due to an 18% reduction in fuel prices at the pump over the past year. Coincidentally, the attribute rating for driving range increases in the 2016 U.S. APEAL Study.

It’s encouraging that J.D. Power also sees higher levels of owner gratification with new-vehicle Audio, Communication, Entertainment, and Navigation (ACEN) systems—essentially infotainment—and with Visibility and Safety technologies. The score for another category that also edges up from last year is Exterior, in which appearance attributes, including front and rear styling plus wheel and tire appearance, are stronger.

Although survey respondents indicate some confusion with how advanced safety technologies work and continue to be frustrated with navigation systems in the ACEN category, overall index scores show the most improvement. On a positive note, the quality of hands-free calls continues to improve, which is good news since 97% of new vehicles are equipped with built-in Bluetooth connectivity. Also, voice recognition, featured in 69% of new vehicles, is better and easier to use compared with years past.

As a category, Visibility and Safety also performs well. Specifically, ratings for vehicle attributes concerning visibility when changing lanes and rearview camera technology help advance owner satisfaction. Other top vehicle attributes this year, according to survey respondents, are the feeling of being safe when driving their new vehicle and steering responsiveness at moderate and high speeds. Other highly rated safety attributes include braking responsiveness, forward visibility, and overall driving dynamics.

This year, only the Engine/Transmission category score dips from 2015. New-vehicle owners are less satisfied with the smoothness of shifting, since many automatics now feature 8- or 9-speed transmissions vs. 5- or 6-speed gearboxes for better acceleration and fuel efficiency to help meet tougher corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. On the positive side in this category, satisfaction is higher among owners whose vehicles are equipped with engine start/stop and re-engagement technology, which helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions, than among owners of new vehicles without this feature.

Additional Research:

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