But Chevy Has Most Segment Winners
There was plenty of good news to be found in the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, especially for customers. With no single name dominating the results this year, that means just about every brand can provide potential owners with at least some choices that deliver award-winning APEAL. Consider: The highest-rated vehicle in the study was the Audi A8, yet Porsche was the top-ranked brand by overall APEAL score and Dodge was the most improved. Further, although Chevrolet had the most individual segment winners, there were just three of them, and seven other brands—Audi, Dodge, Ford, Kia, MINI, Nissan and Porsche—claimed two best-in-class performances.
The annual APEAL Study is geared toward evaluating how satisfied customers are with their new vehicles, but takes a slightly different approach from Power’s Initial Quality Study (IQS). The former looks to what owners like about their new rides, while the latter is more focused on problems they may have encountered. This year’s APEAL results are based on survey responses from 74,000 owners/lessees of 2012 model-year vehicles and take into account more than 80 different facets of the vehicle-ownership experience.
Possibly the most notable winner in the mainstream car segments was the Chevrolet Volt, which came out on top of the Compact Car category—for the second consecutive year. It’s yet more evidence that the relatively small number of people buying the Volt are also loving the Volt; and as a quick glance at the ol’ sales charts will show you, the car is actually enjoying a bit of a sales boon in 2012. Deliveries were up by more than 200 percent both in June and through June,and last month’s sales total of 1,760 units was more than the combined deliveries of all other plug-in vehicles in the nation.
Also, in a turn of events that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, the Bowtie brand notched the top spot in the Sub-Compact Car category with the Chevy Sonic.
The Dodge boys doubled up in the mainstream car classes as well, with the Dodge Charger earning the nod among Large Cars—just ahead of its Chrysler 300 cousin—and the Dodge Challenger doing the same in the Midsize Sporty Car class, where it bested muscle-car competition from the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro.
Even more surprising was the outcome in the Midsize Car segment, where not a single mainstream brand could be found. First place was shared by the Kia Optima and VW Passat, with the Suzuki Kizashi claiming the bronze medal.
This year’s top-three finishers in the mainstream car segments of the 2012 J.D. Power APEAL Study:
Compact Car—Chevrolet Volt, Volkswagen Golf, Honda CR-Z
Compact Sporty Car—MINI Coupe/Roadster, Volkswagen GTI, MINI Cooper
Midsize Car—Kia Optima (tie), Volkswagen Passat (tie), Suzuki Kizashi
Midsize Sporty Car—Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang (no other entry achieved at least an average APEAL score in this segment)
Large Car—Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Nissan Maxima
2012 J.D. Power APEAL Study: Premium Cars
It was Deutschland über alles in the premium car segments: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche were responsible for all category winners and 12 of 13 top-three finishers. The only outlier was the Jaguar XJ, which was the second-ranked entry in the Large Premium Car segment. (Unsurprisingly, the five just-mentioned brands were the five highest-ranking names in the 2012 APEAL study, in this order: Porsche, Jaguar, BMW, Audi, Mercedes.)
For Audi, the results are strong evidence of its growing appeal to premium owners, as is the brand’s ongoing streak of 18 consecutive months of record sales, capped off by a June in which Audi had its best month ever in the U.S. And in addition to the Audi A8 posting the highest APEAL score in the industry for 2012—and winning the Large Premium Car segment—the Audi A6 was the leader in the Midsize Premium Car category, while the Audi A4/A5 climbed into third place among Entry Premium Cars.
Said Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America: “Audi products have become the envy of the luxury automotive industry. This is a result of our unwavering focus on developing premium vehicles that are intelligent in design, progressive in technology, and exceptional in performance. According to the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates APEAL Study, consumers are recognizing this as well. There can be no question that Audi has the right lineup for these times.”
Full 2012 APEAL Study results from the premium car segments:
Compact Premium Sporty Car—Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Convertible/Coupe
Entry Premium Car—BMW 3 Series, BMW 1 Series, Audi A4/A5
Midsize Premium Car—Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan/Wagon
Large Premium Car—Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Porsche Panamera
Premium Sporty Car—Porsche 911, BMW 6 Series
Note: Only vehicles that achieved segment-average scores or better are listed here.
2012 J.D. Power APEAL Study: Mainstream Trucks/Crossovers/SUVs
Much as was the case on the car side of the ledger, the mainstream winners here were a surprising bunch that have been realizing more in the way of owner satisfaction than sales.
A prime example: the Chevrolet Avalanche captured the Large Pickup segment even though its June total of 1,719 deliveries represent roughly what the Ford F-150 sells in a single day. On the other hand, the Avalanche’s APEAL results are no fluke; it also was top pick among full-size pickups in a recent comparison test from Consumer Reports. Just remember that you’ll have to move fast if you still want one, since this will be the last year of Avalanche production.
Similarly, the Blue Oval’s pair of APEAL awardees were in the Midsize Crossover/SUV and Large Crossover/SUV categories, but it was no thanks to popular choices like the Ford Escape, Ford Edge or Ford Explorer. Instead, the Ford Flex and Ford Expedition did the honors. In fact, none of the country’s highest-volume crossovers—also including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Chevrolet Equinox—were recognized by the APEAL study. But the Nissan Quest was, despite selling under 2,000 units in June, while Chrysler, Honda, Dodge and Toyota each sold north of 9,000 minivans last month.
The mainstream truck leaders in the 2012 J.D. Power APEAL Study were:
Compact Crossover/SUV—MINI Countryman, Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage
Compact MPV—Kia Soul, Toyota Prius v (no other entry scored above the segment average)
Midsize Crossover/SUV—Ford Flex, Honda Crosstour, Dodge Durango
Large Crossover/SUV—Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia
Large Pickup—Chevrolet Avalanche, Ford F-150, Ford F-250/F-350
Midsize Pickup—Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline (no other entry scored above the segment average)
Minivan—Nissan Quest, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna
2012 J.D. Power APEAL Study: Premium Trucks/Crossovers/SUVs
There was a distinctly Teutonic aura about the premium trucks, too, particularly in the Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV class: The Porsche Cayenne set the pace, followed by the Volkswagen Touareg and, in a tie, the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The Germans also scored two places in the Entry Premium Crossover/SUV segment, where the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 finished second and third behind the Range Rover Evoque. And moving up to the large entries, there was a small upset as the Infiniti QX56 bested the Cadillac Escalade, which had won the segment earlier this year in both the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study and the Autobytel/AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.
Here’s the complete list of the leaders and finalists from the 2012 APEAL Study’s premium truck segments:
Entry Premium Crossover/SUV—Range Rover Evoque, BMW X3, Audi Q5
Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV—Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7 (tie), Mercedes-Benz M-Class (tie)
Large Premium Crossover/SUV—Infiniti QX56, Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover Range Rover Sport