Apparently, judging a book by its cover sells cars. According to J.D. Power's 2013 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, attractive vehicles sell faster, command higher prices and lead to more loyal customers. The big winners this year are Porsche for most appealing brand; Volkswagen and GM also scored well at the vehicle level.
The study, now in its 18th year, measures how gratifying a new vehicle is to own through the first 90 days of ownership. Between February and May of 2013, J.D. Power polled around 83,000 buyers and lessees of new model-year 2013 cars and light trucks across 77 categories; the APEAL score is measured on a 1,000-point scale. New this year is an emphasis on how technological features — like navigation and multimedia systems — affect a vehicle's appeal.
According to Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power, when it comes to infotainment, usability absolutely impacts APEAL scores. "It's very clear from consumers that they're very excited about a lot of what manufacturers are providing to them ... but the execution of those functions may still be lacking," he said.
"We've seen that [dissatisfaction] in the past with navigation systems, and now we're seeing that broaden because we're offering more connected services, infotainment-type services. ... We're creating complexity that needs to be overcome with more intuitive control sets and menus," VanNieuwkuyk continued.
It seems like a no-brainer that customers who just purchased a particular car would find it appealing, but to manufacturers the study is important and translates into big money. "One percentage point of loyalty is worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to automakers. These companies are fighting for every last customer, and it is clear that appealing products remain the key to achieving this," David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
The organization reports that 64% of owners whose car scored at least 100 points above the segment average stay within the brand when buying another car. When the APEAL score dips to around 100 points below the segment average, the brand's repurchase rating slips to just 55%. The study also shows that owners of vehicles with a score of 100 points higher than the class average tend to spend about $1,800 more on a new vehicle than owners of vehicles with lower scores.
Apparently it's a love fest for Porsche owners — the brand scored the highest with 884 points. Ram checked in as the highest-ranked non-premium nameplate with 817 points. Unsurprisingly, the Smart brand bottomed out with just 739 points.
See rankings below: