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Porsche tops J.D. Power study of new vehicle appeal

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

The Porsche brand ranks the highest for the 11th straight year in a study that measures the appeal of owning and driving a new vehicle.

Three brands including Porsche, Chevrolet and Ford also received three vehicle segment awards in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study released Wednesday.

Chevrolet won segment awards for the Colorado midsize pickup, Corvette sports car and Sonic subcompact. Fdord won for the C-Max hybrid, Expedition SUV and F-150 pickup. Porsche received top awards for the Cayenne SUV, Cayman sports car and Macan SUV.

“Today’s Chevrolet product lineup is truly the best in the brand’s history,” Alan Batey, president of Global Chevrolet and GM North America, said in a statement. “And being recognized by J.D. Power with three APEAL awards is further proof that we are offering consumers what they value most — exceptional performance, technologies and features that make their lives easier, all packaged in modern, distinctive designs.”

Audi, BMW, Dodge, Mazda and Mini each had two segment award wins. Dodge won for the Challenger and Charger muscle cars.

J.D. Power based its rankings on responses from more than 84,000 people who bought and leased 2015 vehicles and who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The vehicles were registered between February and May.

The average APEAL score is based on a 1,000 point scale that evaluates 77 vehicle attributes; Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power, said the exterior, engine and transmission and audio and navigation have high weight in the study. This year, the overall APEAL score was 798 in 2015, up four points from 2014 in part to automakers’ adding safety technologies to vehicles.

The market research company says automakers and brands that have vehicles with high appeal can sell them faster, demand higher prices for them and they tend to have higher loyalty rates of repeat customers.

About 90 percent of consumers are likely to recommend a vehicle with very high appeal, with scores 100 points or more above the industry average, while the recommendation rate for vehicles that are below average and have experienced problems drops to less than half that percentage, Stephens said.

“What we found is the appeal index has significant impact on their loyalty to the brand over time,” she said.

Following Porsche as the top nameplate was Jaguar, coming in second for the second consecutive year. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi rounded out the top five, with BMW and Mercedes-Benz each improving in the rankings from a year ago. The Mini brand was the highest non-premium brand, taking that title from Hyundai in the 2014 study.

Lincoln was the top ranking American brand at No. 7, followed by Cadillac at No. 8 (they each moved up one spot from a year ago). GMC, Ram, Buick and Ford all finished above the industry average with Buick, GMC and Ford rising from below average last year. Stephens said Ford saw big improvement scores for its F-150 and Mustang, which helped it boost its ranking.

Chevrolet, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Fiat all were below the industry average. The Smart brand was worst at 683.

Korean brands on average improved the most in the study, with strong improvements also coming from domestic brands and European brands. The Japanese brands also improved but at a slower rate than the others, Stephens said.

FCA took home three segment wins.

“We’re proud to receive three APEAL awards in back-to-back years as customers continue to recognize that we’re delivering exciting and appealing vehicles which meet their needs,” Matt Liddane, vice president of quality for FCA North America, said in a statement. “An owner’s positive experience with our vehicles, whether that’s with a Dodge Challenger or a Fiat 500, is a true testament to our steadfast commitment to the highest level of quality across our vehicle lineup.”

Ford, in a statement, said APEAL results “validate the progress we are making to deliver top quality for our customers with every new vehicle and demonstrate continued improvement across both Ford and Lincoln brands.”

Stephens said vehicles garnered higher scores with safety systems such as blind spot monitoring.

“Unlike other technologies, such as voice recognition, that can be challenging to operate, most safety features provide information in a more intuitive way, giving owners a greater sense of security,” Stephens said in a statement. “Not only are models increasingly offering systems that improve safety and visibility, but owners are also using them on a regular basis. This can go a long way toward generating positive feelings about their vehicle overall.”

The average score for a non-premium brand was 790, up 5 points from 2014, while the average premium brand score was 841, up 1 point from 2014.

Premium brands typically fare better than non-premium brands in the APEAL study, but the gap is narrowing and is the smallest since 2006, Stephens said. That’s due partly to non-premium makes offering features and technologies that previously were only found in luxury vehicles, she said.

J.D. Power says carmakers and suppliers use the APEAL study to benchmark competition and to improve vehicles and products.

Segment winners

These vehicles were the top models for their segments in the J.D. Power APEAL study:

City car: Fiat 500

Small car: Chevrolet Sonic

Small premium car: Audi A3

Compact car: Volkswagen Golf

Compact sporty car: Mini Cooper

Compact premium car: BMW 4 Series

Compact premium sporty car: Porsche Cayman

Midsize car: Mazda 6

Midsize sporty car: Dodge Challenger

Midsize premium car: BMW 6 Series

Midsize premium sporty car: Chevrolet Corvette

Large car: Dodge Charger

Large premium car: Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Small SUV: Mini Countryman

Small premium SUV: Audi Q3

Compact SUV: Mazda CX-5

Compact premium SUV: Porsche Macan

Compact MPV: Ford C-Max

Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano

Midsize premium SUV: Porsche Cayenne

Midsize pickup: Chevrolet Colorado

Minivan: Kia Sedona

Large SUV: Ford Expedition

Large premium SUV: Infiniti QX80

Large light-duty pickup: Ford F-150

Large heavy-duty pickup: GMC Sierra HD

Source: J.D. Power