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Fuel economy drives down new-vehicle gratification

Luxury brands still top J.D. Power study results

Americans found their new vehicles slightly less gratifying this year than last year.

That decline was caused in large part by declining consumer gratification with the fuel economy of their new vehicles, according to this year’s J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study.

The average overall score in this year’s study fell by two points, to 770 out of 1,000.

“Even though more consumers are now achieving the gas mileage they expect compared with previous years, the increased cost of filling their vehicles still leads to a greater level of dissatisfaction with fuel economy than in the past,” study co-director David Sargent said in a statement.

Still, the brands that delighted their customers the most last year were not the ones with the most fuel-efficient vehicles. Luxury brands dominated the top half of the list, with Porsche, Jaguar and BMW taking the top three spots. Jeep, Subaru and Suzuki took the bottom three.

Sargent said luxury brands tend to rank highest because the survey focuses on things such as performance, interior styling and features.

Customers were more delighted by their audio, entertainment and navigation systems this year. This comes as automakers include more advanced entertainment and navigation systems in more models.

“Consumers really appreciate having these new features in their vehicles,” Sargent said. “So long as it works well and is intuitive.”

The Honda brand won the most model segment awards, with the Fit, Ridgeline and Odyssey winning top honors in their classes.

Overall, though, Honda saw a decline in owner gratification. Its score declined 12 points from last year, to 764.

Buick saw the largest increase in owner gratification. Its score increased 20 points, to 770. Toyota’s Scion brand posted the largest decrease. Its score fell 36 points, to 773.

Sargent said the Buick increase resulted almost entirely from the release of the Enclave, which was the highest-ranked vehicle in its segment. Ford’s score increased by 14 points, largely because of the high rankings of the Ford Focus, which contributes heavily to Ford’s score because of its high sales volume.

Sargent said the Focus was the most improved vehicle in the industry.

J.D. Power said the annual survey, known as the APEAL study, was conducted from February through May and surveyed 81,500 U.S. vehicle purchasers and lessees. The survey was conducted to assess the first 90 days of vehicle ownership.

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