The biggest improvement in owner appeal was made by high-performance models from Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., J.D. Power and Associates said in the 2010 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout study, released today.
For the sixth year in a row, Porsche was the No.1 brand in Power's APEAL study. The Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan received the highest score of any model. The top 12 brands were all premium nameplates.
Lincoln was the highest-ranked domestic brand and was followed closely by Cadillac.
New or redesigned models from Ford and GM were among the highest ranked, the study said.
Detroit's three automakers had an average score of 787 out of 1,000 points in the 2010 study, a 13-point lead over the average score for European or Asian brands.
It is the first time since 1997 that Ford, GM and Chrysler outpaced the competition in the study. The appeal of Detroit 3 models has risen annually since 2008.
David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates, said Detroit automakers outpaced the imports because they:
• Retired many models with low appeal.
• Introduced new and highly coveted vehicles.
• Freshened and redesigned existing models.
New models introduced by Asian and European automakers since 2008 did not improve their brands' scores as much as models of U.S. brands, the study said.
“Historically, vehicle models achieving high APEAL scores have been shown to generate faster sales, higher profit margins and less need for cash incentives,” the study said. “High levels of vehicle appeal also have a strong influence on customer recommendation rates.”
The study examines 80 vehicle attributes to measure owner gratification with a new vehicle. J.D. Power says the APEAL study complements its Initial Quality Study, released last month.
That study looks at actual problems and customer complaints during the first 90 days of ownership. For the first time, Detroit brands beat foreign brands in the survey of initial quality of 2010 models.
Brands that rate high in initial quality aren't always ranked highest in owner appeal. Porsche was No. 1 in both studies, but Land Rover placed last in initial quality and fifth in owner gratification. Jaguar was second in appeal but fifth from the bottom in initial quality.
Toyota placed second from the bottom in the satisfaction study, falling four spots from 2009.
“Toyota has not performed well in the APEAL study. It's traditionally performed well in IQS -- this year not as well,” said Sargent. “They are emotionally pretty reliable, but owners do not find them particularly exciting.”
Toyota realizes “that this is a challenge, and they are trying to face up to it,” he said.
To a lesser degree, Sargent said, the same is true for Honda and Hyundai, whose appeal is below the industry average.
The new Ram brand was added as a separate brand to the 2010 APEAL and initial quality studies. Ram did the best in APEAL out of the Chrysler Group's four brands. Jeep fell one spot from a year earlier to last.
“The large pickup is a pretty new design for them, and both the light-duty and the heavy-duty [Ram] performed pretty well,” said Sargent. “In some ways, it is an indication of what is performing well at Chrysler.”
The Dodge and Chrysler brands suffered from aging models.
“What will be interesting is they have a massive number of vehicles coming out in the next few months, and they are confident that their appeal and quality will be good,” Sargent said. “Typically, all-new vehicles or heavily redesigned models tend to perform well.”
The Dodge Durango SUV and the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans will be replaced or all-new for the 2011 model year.
Ford received top ratings in five segments for individual nameplates -- more than any other brand in 2010 -- for the Expedition SUV, Explorer Sport Trac pickup, Flex crossover and Fusion and Taurus sedans.
“With Ford, the Taurus stands out. It's effectively an all-new vehicle that launched extremely well,” said Sargent.
In general, a lot of Ford's newer vehicles are “performing pretty well,” he said.
For GM, the all-new Chevrolet Camaro performed well, as did the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers and the Buick LaCrosse sedan.
Cadillac dropped significantly from its No. 3 spot last year.
“The SRX did not launch as well in terms of appeal; it is hard to say why,” said Sargent. “The CTS, which is relatively new, performed well at launch, and then it declined a little bit in its second and third year. The other big product is the Escalade, which is starting to age a little bit.”
J.D. Power said only two models, the Chevrolet Avalanche pickup and Ford Taurus, were ranked highest in their segments in both the 2010 APEAL and initial-quality studies.
Japanese automaker Suzuki showed the biggest improvement in owner appeal, moving from last place out of 37 brands in 2009 to 30th out of 33 in 2010. Suzuki's score jumped primarily because of the new Kizashi sport sedan.
While Ram was added to the 2010 study, five brands were dropped: Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer, which were shuttered by GM; the slow-selling Smart brand; and Saab because it ran out of vehicles to sell.
The 2010 APEAL Study is based on responses from 76,000 new-car owners and lessees of 2010 models. They were surveyed between February and May 2010 after the first 90 days of ownership.
|J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study|
|The APEAL Study examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes. The 2010 APEAL Study is based on responses gathered between February and May 2010 from more than 76,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2010 model-year cars and trucks who were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership.|