July 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Dodge, Porsche lead J.D. Power vehicle appeal awards

J.D. Power's study measuring new vehicle appeal had the Dodge Challenger ranked at the top of its segment. (Chrysler Group LLC)

Dodge and Porsche each scored three segment awards in a J.D. Power study released Wednesday measuring new vehicle appeal.

Dodge topped segments for the Challenger, Charger and Dart, and Porsche took top honors for the 911, Boxster and Cayenne in J.D. Power’s 2014 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

“A customer’s positive experiences with good quality lead to greater satisfaction, loyalty and the likelihood an owner will recommend their vehicle to friends and family,” said Doug Betts, senior vice president of quality at Chrysler Group LLC, in a statement.

Four brands received two segment awards apiece: Audi for the A8 (tie) and Q5; Ford for the F-150 and F-250/F-350 Super Duty trucks; Mercedes-Benz for the CLS-Class and S-Class (tie), and Nissan for the Rogue and Quest.

This year’s study included responses from more than 86,000 people who bought or leased new 2014 cars and trucks. They were queried during their first 90 days of ownership. The study, in its 19th year looks, at new vehicle appeal, especially around new technologies and features and is based on evaluations of 77 vehicle attributes.

J.D. Power says automakers who have cars and trucks with high appeal can sell them faster. Carmakers also can demand higher prices for the cars, and they tend to have higher loyalty rates.

The 2014 APEAL study found the Porsche brand as the highest nameplate for a 10th straight year, followed by Jaguar, Audi, Land Rover and BMW. Hyundai was the highest-ranking non-luxury brand and Lincoln was the highest-ranking American brand at No. 8, with Cadillac following at No. 9. Mitsubishi finished last.

Overall, the average APEAL score in the 2014 study was 794 on a 1,000-point scale, down 1 point from 2013. Fuel economy was the only study category that posted a gain from 2013.

“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,” Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “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.”

General Motors Co. received just one segment award in this year’s study with the GMC Yukon. Last year, it had four segment leaders. GM in a statement said it will use data from the study “to pinpoint features and designs to further improve and delight our customers.”

The Ram brand finished above the industry average while GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC brands finished just below average. Dodge, Ford, Chrysler, Fiat and Jeep also were below industry average.

Ford in a statement said it is committed to improving quality.

“By listening to our customers, we have been able to make changes that have led to improvements in this year’s J.D. Power APEAL study in the areas of both fuel economy and audio, communication, entertainment and navigation,” the Dearborn automaker said in a statement.

APEAL pairs with J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study, which asks customers about problems they have in the first 90 days driving their new car or truck. Hyundai also was the top-ranking non-luxury brand in the 2014 initial quality study, the first time a brand ranked highest in both studies in the same year.

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Staff writer Michael Martinez contributed.