J.D. Power APEAL: Gratifying But Confusing

J.D.

J.D. Power and Associates reported the findings of its 2010 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study today, and the headline is “Domestic Models Outperfrom Imports in Vehicle Appeal for the First Time in 13 Years.” That’s right, the first time since Titanic was in the theaters, Celene Dion received album of the year, Hong Kong went back to the Chinese, and the Hale-Bopp comet swung by. Strange days.

The APEAL study “examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes.” We’re not all that certain of vehicular gratification, but confident that the winners of the 2010 study are more than slightly gratified.

Based on a 1,000-point scale, the U.S. brands scored 787 and those automakers headquartered Elsewhere came in at 774. Hmm. . .13 years. . .13 points.

According to David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power, “Domestic automakers have performed three important actions during the past two years that have led to their gains. Firstly, they have retired many models that demonstrated low appeal. They have also introduced new, highly appealing models to their lineups, and finally, they have improved their existing models through freshenings and redesigns.”

Clearly, it might seem that fresh product matters. But then it is a little hard to figure how Ford, the champion in this year’s APEAL, garnered awards for the Expedition and Explorer Sport Trac, which are decidedly not all that fresh and not all that freshened. Its other winners are the Flex, Fusion and Taurus, all within the fresh range.

 

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One thing that is a bit odd is that the top nine places in the Nameplate ranking of the study are from Elsewhere. In the 2009 study, Cadillac was in third place behind Porsche and Jaguar—which hold the top two spots in 2010—and Lincoln was at #10. This year Lincoln is at #9 and Cadillac is back at #10. Isn’t that, well, less good?

Then when you consult the top vehicles per segment, the Elsewhere brands seem to more than hold their own:

  • Subcompact: Honda Fit
  • Compact: MINI Cooper
  • Compact Sporty: Volkswagen GTI
  • Compact Premium Sporty: Mercedes E-Class Coupe
  • Entry Premium: BMW 3 Series
  • Midsize Sporty: Chevrolet Camaro
  • Midsize Premium: BMW 5 Series
  • Large Premium: Mercedes S-Class
  • Midsize: Ford Fusion
  • Large Car: Ford Taurus
  • Compact Crossover/SUV: GMC Terrain
  • Compact MPV: Nissan Cube
  • Entry Premium Crossover/SUV: Audi Q5
  • Midsize Crossover/SUV: Ford Flex
  • Large Crossover/SUV: Ford Expedition
  • Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV: Audi Q7
  • Large Premium Crossover/SUV: Land Rover Range Rover
  • Large Pickup: Chevrolet Avalanche
  • Midsize Pickup: Ford Explorer Sport Trac
  • Minivan: Volkswagen Routan

Based on that, there are eight out of 20 for the U.S. brands (given that the Routan is built by Chrysler in Windsor, Ontario, maybe nine).

By the way: the average price of a gallon of gas in 1997 was $1.23. That was gratifying.