The latest research by J.D. Power and Associates has concluded that most of the recent vehicle buyers it surveyed are finding little pain and lots of gain when making the decision to downsize. According to findings in the firm's 2012 U.S. APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) Study, the reality of living with a new smaller car or truck is no worse and frequently even better than their previous experience in a larger-scaled alternative.
In commenting on the latest APEAL study results, Power VP of global automotive, David Sargent, notes that this trend has been developing over the past six years and that for 2012, the 765-point rating (out of a perfect 1,000) earned by sub-compact/compact vehicles is the same as the average for mid-size models four years ago. That also holds true for 2012 mid-premium models that earned an 844 index, which is identical to the figure for large-premium vehicles in the aforementioned time interval. As in the past, the number of buyers who moved down a size category was virtually double those who chose to step up a class -- 27 percent to 13 percent -- with 60 percent staying where they were in the transition.
"New-vehicle buyers who downsize are not making the sacrifice that they once were," said Sargent. "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 2012 J.D. Power and Associates APEAL Study incorporated responses from over 74,000 owners on more than 80 individual vehicle attributes to determine how gratifying a new car or truck is to own and drive. While noting that larger models still do outscore smaller ones, Sargent adds that major improvements to the structure, performance and sophisticated feature sets of today's downscaled alternative choices have some owners actually perceiving the change as an upgrade. The downsizing trend also is being influenced by the rising price of fuel. In 2012, 47 percent of owners indicated gas mileage was one of the most important factors in determining their choice of a new vehicle, up from 40 percent in 2011.
As for individual 2012 APEAL Award Study winners, Porsche topped the overall manufacturer rankings for the eighth consecutive year. The Audi A8 was the highest ranked individual model and Chevrolet claimed the most best-in-segment awards with three for the Sonic, Volt and Avalanche. Manufacturers rolling off with two APEAL Award wins included Audi (A6/A8), Dodge (Challenger/Charger), Ford (Expedition/Flex), Kia (Optima/Soul), Mini (Countryman and Coupe/Roadster), Nissan (Frontier/Quest) and Porsche (911/Cayenne) while the BMW 3 Series, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, Infiniti QX56 and Volkswagen Passat each earned a best-in-class for their respective makers. The biggest year-over-year advances in APEAL scoring were made by Dodge, Jaguar and RAM.