J.D. Power and Associates Reports: As Vehicle Appeal Improves, Owners Find That Downsizing Doesn't Necessarily Mean Downgrading

Chevrolet Receives Three Segment-Level Awards; Audi, Dodge, Ford, Kia, MINI, Nissan and Porsche Each Receive Two

Jul 25, 2012, 10:00 ET from J.D. Power and Associates

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., July 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- As owners continue to shift toward smaller vehicles, they are finding that the ones they buy are often just as appealing as the larger vehicles they previously owned, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) StudySM released today.

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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 "upsized," while 60 percent purchased a new vehicle in the same size segment as their previous vehicle.

"New-vehicle buyers who downsize 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 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® (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 midsize vehicles in the study in 2008.  Similarly, in 2012, the average APEAL Study score for vehicles in the midsize 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 upsized," 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 downsize 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 downsize 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.

Model-Level and Nameplate Rankings
Chevrolet receives the highest number of segment awards of all brands included in the study for the Avalanche, Sonic and Volt models.

Seven brands each receive two model awards: Audi (for the A6 and A8); Dodge (Challenger and Charger); Ford (Expedition and Flex); Kia (Optima in a tie and Soul); MINI (Countryman and Coupe/Roadster); Nissan (Frontier and Quest); and Porsche (Cayenne and 911). The Audi A8 achieves the highest APEAL Study score of any model in the industry in 2012.

Also receiving awards are the BMW 3 Series; Infiniti QX56, Range Rover Evoque; Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class; and Volkswagen Passat in a tie.

Porsche is the highest-ranking nameplate for an eighth consecutive year. Dodge, Jaguar and Ram achieve the greatest year-over-year improvements, increasing scores by 21, 20 and 19 points, respectively.

J.D. Power offers the following tips to consumers when purchasing a new vehicle:

  • Have realistic expectations about the fuel economy of your vehicle, and remember that the city/highway/combined mileage ranges listed on the window sticker are merely estimates provided by the EPA. Your actual miles per gallon will vary due to many factors, including driving and weather conditions, driving style, tire inflation and the overall condition of your vehicle.
  • Know the type of fuel your prospective new vehicle requires, including premium unleaded or diesel, and take that into account when budgeting for it.
  • Before you buy, ask your salesperson to demonstrate all of the audio/entertainment/navigation features on the vehicle. Also, have them assist you in connecting your mobile device or portable audio player to the vehicle's communication system or audio interface in order to test for a good hands-free connection and to make sure the system recognizes your commands.
  • Although exterior styling is the highest-scoring category in the 2012 APEAL Study and often the most significant purchase reason for many buyers, consider all aspects of a vehicle to ensure that in addition to looking good to you, it also meets your needs. Some vehicles that look good may have design-related issues, such as being hard to see out of, or may not offer the cargo space you desire.

The APEAL Study examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes. The 2012 APEAL Study is based on responses gathered between February and May 2012 from more than 74,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2012 model-year cars and light trucks who were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership. The APEAL Study complements the Initial Quality Study (IQS), which focuses on problems experienced by owners during the first 90 days of ownership.

2012 APEAL Nameplate Ranking

(Based on a 1,000-point scale)











Land Rover
























Industry Average




































Top Three Models per Segment
Car Segments

Sub-Compact Car
Highest Ranked: Chevrolet Sonic
Fiat 500
Ford Fiesta

Compact Car
Highest Ranked: Chevrolet Volt
Volkswagen Golf
Honda CR-Z

Compact Sporty Car
Highest Ranked: MINI Coupe/Roadster
Volkswagen GTI
MINI Cooper

Compact Premium Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Convertible/Coupe

Entry Premium Car
Highest Ranked: BMW 3 Series
BMW 1 Series
Audi A4/5

Midsize Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Dodge Challenger
Ford Mustang

Midsize Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Audi A6
BMW 5 Series
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan/Wagon

Large Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Audi A8
Jaguar XJ
Porsche Panamera

Midsize Car
Highest Ranked: Kia Optima (tie) / Volkswagen Passat (tie)
Suzuki Kizashi

Large Car
Highest Ranked: Dodge Charger
Chrysler 300 Series
Nissan Maxima

Premium Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Porsche 911
BMW 6 Series

Top Three Models per Segment
Truck / Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV) Segments

Compact Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: MINI Countryman
Volkswagen Tiguan
Kia Sportage

Compact MPV*
Highest Ranked: Kia Soul
Toyota Prius v

Entry Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Range Rover Evoque
Audi Q5

Midsize Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Ford Flex
Honda Crosstour
Dodge Durango

Large Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Ford Expedition
Nissan Armada
Toyota Sequoia

Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Porsche Cayenne
Volkswagen Touareg
Audi Q7 (tie)
Mercedes-Benz M-Class (tie)

Large Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Infiniti QX56
Cadillac Escalade
Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Large Pickup
Highest Ranked: Chevrolet Avalanche
Ford F-150 LD
Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty

Midsize Pickup*
Highest Ranked: Nissan Frontier
Honda Ridgeline

Highest Ranked: Nissan Quest
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Sienna

*No other model in this segment performs above the segment average.

About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company providing performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions.  The company's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies
McGraw-Hill announced on September 12, 2011, its intention to separate into two public companies: McGraw-Hill Financial, a leading provider of content and analytics to global financial markets, and McGraw-Hill Education, a leading education company focused on digital learning and education services worldwide. McGraw-Hill Financial's leading brands include Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, S&P Capital IQ, S&P Indices, Platts energy information services and J.D. Power and Associates. With sales of $6.2 billion in 2011, the Corporation has approximately 23,000 employees across more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.

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