The 2009 Toyota Matrix had the worst launch. It scored 439 on a scale that measures sales volume, the need for sales incentives, dealer inventory levels and dealer gross profits. It also factors in vehicle quality and design, based on J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study and Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.
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. Both Toyota models in the study, the Matrix and Toyota Corolla, scored below the industry average.
The Pontiac Vibe, a twin of the Matrix, had the third-worst launch.
"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."
J.D. Power estimates that automakers will spend $50 billion to launch 205 new and redesigned vehicles over the next four years.