Mini, Subaru and Scion had the biggest improvements in J.D. Power’s latest study of new-vehicle appeal, while Porsche finished first overall for the 11th consecutive year.
The upper echelon of J.D. Power’s 2015 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study was dominated by luxury brands. Porsche was followed by Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
Mini, the top-scoring non-premium brand, was led by a strong launch of the Cooper. Mini, which had two segment wins with the Cooper and Countryman, rose five spots in the rankings to 11th place with a score of 825 on a 1,000 point scale -- an industry-leading 30-point gain from 2014.
While sometimes troublesome technologies such as voice recognition can annoy consumers, J.D. Power found that safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring are having the opposite effect by making vehicles more appealing.
Models with blind-spot monitoring and warning systems scored 38 points higher than vehicles without them.
“The safety features and the weight they had on the overall index was a surprise … For me, that was very telling,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power.
Subaru, which had a runner-up finish in the compact car segment with the WRX, scored 788, a 22-point leap from 2014; it rose from second-to-last in 2014 to tie for 25th with Chrysler. Scion, 796, had the third-largest improvement after its score rose 17 points; it climbed from 28th place in 2014 to tie for 22nd, with Mazda.
Hyundai, last year’s leading non-premium brand, followed Mini as the second-ranked non-premium after improving five points to 809. Volkswagen, 806, was next with a 10-point gain.
GMC, 804, and Ram, 803, rounded out the top five non-premium brands.
Only two non-premium brands, Fiat and Toyota, had their scores drop this year. Fiat fell 19 points to 749, while Toyota, 781, was down two points.
J.D. Power says strong showings in the APEAL Study correlate with the building of brand loyalty that leads to repeat buys. Owners of models with higher APEAL scores also are more likely to recommend their vehicles to others.
“Word of mouth is still extremely important,” Stephens said.
Lexus, 831, had the steepest decline of any luxury brand after its score slipped by 13 points. Lexus fell from sixth to 10th place.
The premium brand average was 841, one point better than 2014. The non-premium average jumped five points to 790.
Stephens said the 51-point gap between the two categories was the smallest since 2006. The tighter scores are attributed to non-premium brands increasingly offering in-vehicle technologies that were once only available to premium buyers.
The APEAL Study, now in its 20th year, measures how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive.
After the first 90 days of ownership, more than 84,000 purchasers and lessees judged their new 2015 model year vehicles across 77 attributes, which are combined into an overall APEAL score on a 1,000-point scale. The higher the score, the better.