Each year, for the past 19 years, automakers and automobile owners eagerly anticipate the release of the J.D. Power & Associates' Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, which polls owners to evaluate cars on 77 features.
The big winners this year are Porsche as the highest-ranked nameplate in premium brands, while Hyundai takes the honors in the non-premium category. Hyundai also placed first in non-premium brands in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) released last month. The IQS reports on owner satisfaction within the first 90 days of owning a new vehicle.
The APEAL Study differs from the IQS as it takes a longer look at a new vehicle. It focuses on how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive beyond the initial ownership period. Consumers use the study to help make purchasing decisions; manufacturers use it re-think current vehicles and develop more appealing newer ones.
The APEAL Study casts a wide net; it collects responses from over 86,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 model-year cars and light trucks after the first 90 days of ownership. The IQS canvasses new owners during the first 90 days of ownership and focuses on glitches and problems with the new vehicles.
The industry average score is 794 points of a possible 1,000. All of the premium brands finished above that benchmark. In order from top to bottom were Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, Land Rover, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Cadillac, Infiniti, Acura and Volvo. In the nonpremium range, only four brands placed above the industry average -- Hyundai, Ram, Volkswagen and Mini. At the bottom of the pile, from the ground up, were Mitsubishi, Jeep, Subaru, Fiat and Scion.
By car segments, the winners were the Hyundai Accent (Small Car), Dodge Dart (Compact Car), BMW 4 Series (Compact Premium Car), Volkswagen GTI (Compact Sporty Car), Porsche Boxster (Compact Premium Sporty Car), Mazda 6 (Midsize Car), Dodge Challenger (Midsize Sporty Car), Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class (Midsize Premium Car), Porsche 911 (Midsize Premium Sporty Car), Dodge Charger (Large Car), rounding out with a tie between the Audi A8 and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class for Large Premium Car.
The APEAL Study found that fuel economy, although on the uptick in the annual surveys, is still lagging behind other categories in owner satisfaction.
"Despite improvements this year, fuel economy continues to be the lowest-scoring category by a wide margin," said Renee Stephens, vice president of automotive at J.D. Power. "While many factors influence the fuel performance of a vehicle, 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. Customers are not always happy with the trade-off between those characteristics."