Toyota Tumbles in Latest J.D.Power and Associates APEAL Study!

According to the good folks at J.D. Powers and Associates, they have released their  2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. Before I get to the Toyota tumbling act to where they currently reside now, I wanted to touch on a few things that I personally found interesting about the study.

If you are not familiar with J.D. Power and Associates, their studies are quite rigorous in their research and data collecting. I actually got to experience this first hand while being interviewed by them to receive my Lincoln Premier Experience Certification, a process itself that took over six months to complete. Apparently Lincoln took selling their cars very seriously…so much so, that if I were to have gotten fired from my job (as an Internet Sales Manager), I wouldn’t have been able to sell cars from a competing automaker for an entire year. They defined it as for Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Jaguar, et. al. I now define it as for Acura, Buick, and Volvo. But that’s another article for another time.

Anyways, here are some of the highlights of the APEAL study…can you guess what the biggest highlight of them all is?

Small cars are more desirable than large cars: The study finds that 27 percent of new-vehicle buyers who replaced a vehicle downsized, meaning they purchased a new vehicle in a smaller segment than the vehicle they replaced. In contrast, only 13 percent of buyers up-sized, while 60 percent purchased a new vehicle in the same  segment as their previous vehicle.

“New-vehicle buyers who down are not making the sacrifice that they once were,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates.  “Automakers are heavily focused on providing the U.S. market with appealing smaller models, and buyers may be surprised at just how good some of them are.”

The average age of a trade-in is now six years oldThe vehicles currently being traded in for new ones are approximately six years old, on average, according to data from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network(R) (PIN).  During that period of time, vehicle appeal overall has significantly increased, and today’s smaller vehicles are, in many cases, more appealing than the larger vehicles being replaced. In 2012, the average APEAL Study score for vehicles in the compact/sub-compact segment is 765 points (on a 1,000-point scale), which is the same as the average for mid vehicles in the study in 2008.  Similarly, in 2012, the average APEAL Study score for vehicles in the mid premium segment is 844, the same as the average for large premium vehicles in 2008.

“For many years, almost twice as many vehicle owners have downsized, compared with those who have up-sized,” said Sargent.  “Although larger models continue to attain higher APEAL Study scores than smaller models, as they typically provide higher performance, have more pleasing styling, are more comfortable and include more features, owners who down find that today’s compact models are not the ‘econoboxes’ that they may have once feared.  For example, most compact vehicles are more substantial than in the past and perform much better on the road.  They also have many of the features and appointments that were previously found only on larger models.  Vehicle owners who down are often finding that they are actually upgrading when they buy a new vehicle.”

The downsizing trend also has an impact on owner satisfaction with the fuel economy of their new vehicle. While overall vehicle appeal continues to improve, increasing seven points year over year, the greatest improvement is in fuel economy. Furthermore, 47 percent of owners say gas mileage was one of the most important factors in choosing their new vehicle, up from 40 percent in 2011.

Chevrolet won three awards: This came as a surprise to me, but seeing as they’ve been hitting home runs lately (like Nissan and Kia before them), I guess the general public is taking notice as well. Thankfully, they were saved during the economic crisis back in 2008. Glad they stuck around.

Highest ranking nameplate this year? No surprise here, it’s Porsche. From their loyal clientele with the legendary 911, to the conquest buyers of the Cayenne, and improving sales of the Boxster and Cayman, not to mention their best-in-class resale value, it’s pretty easy to see why they won this award.

Most improved: Dodge, Ram, and Jaguar. Jaguar has long been the top-ranked (or near the top) European nameplate in their other surveys, so I suspect this is because of their current owners Tata investing heavily in providing upscale finishes/materials in the interiors, and keeping the exteriors fresh. As for the Dodge and Ram, they’re both enjoying a revamped product line that will only improve with time. Here’s to hoping that will translate into improved sales.

And finally, last but not least…

Toyota fell below the industry average: The industry average this year was 788, with Toyota coming in at 780. Its “cross-town rival” Honda plummeted to 771. As a point of reference, Kia, long being stereotyped and ridiculed for making cheap, undesirable products, actually came in higher than Toyota at 786. Even its paternal twin Hyundai came in two points lower at 784. My, my, how times have changed for the Evil Empire. Kudos to the Korean twins for upstaging their Japanese rivals!

Portions of this article were provided by the press release from J.D. Powers and Associates.

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