The Hyundai Genesis ranked as the most smoothly launched vehicle in a U.S. study that grades automakers on their ability to hit sales, price and dealer-profit targets with new models.
The 2009 Genesis scored 689 out of 1,000 possible points on J.D. Power and Associates newly created Vehicle Launch Index. The worst performer: The 2009 Toyota Matrix. It scored 439 on a scale that measures sales volume, vehicle design, quality, the need for sales incentives, dealer inventory levels, and dealer gross profits.
Following the Genesis were the Ford F-150 pickup and the Volkswagen Tiguan.
The Matrix, the Dodge Ram pickup and the Pontiac Vibe -- General Motors now-abandoned twin version of the Matrix -- were rated as the worst introductions last year. The 2008 launch of the Matrix was complicated by quality issues, unappealing design and higher-than-average incentives in its segment, according to J.D. Power.
How well a new model sells is only one part of the equation for judging how well a vehicle launch has gone, said Gary Dilts, a senior vice president at J.D. Power.
The other questions are: Is it selling at the level that was forecast? Is it selling at the expected price point? Is it holding its value in the market? Are dealers making the expected margin on it? Is it causing the manufacturer to spend more than planned on marketing support?
Launches represent a four- to five-year investment of huge sums of money, Dilts said, explaining why Power has begun measuring vehicle debuts. Automakers make assumptions about the market that turn out to be wrong a few years later, and it can be very expensive.