For the first time since 1997, American consumers have indicated that they feel domestic auto brands, collectively, have surpassed import brands as a whole when it comes to overall vehicle appeal. So say the just-released findings of the new J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. The Power data was generated by data firm gathered between February and May 2010 from more than 76,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2010 model-year cars and trucks who were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership. Key categories of consideration include exterior/interior styling, vehicle dynamics, powertrains, audio/entertainment/navigation, sets, storage/space, visibility/safety and fuel economy.
According to J.D. Power, the domestics have been significant gains in the APEAL rankings during the course of the past four years. The largest jumps occurred between 2008 and 2010 largely on the strength of new or revamped vehicles from Ford and General Motors. In 2010, the APEAL score for all domestic brands averaged 787 on a 1,000-point scale compared to the 774 index number for import makers headquartered in Europe or Asia Pacific. While taking the overall APEAL honors, the data also shows that the import nameplates continue to maintain a clear advantage while the domestic makes hold a significant edge when in comes to mass-market models.
In commenting on the prime factors that led to the turnaround in the 2010 APEAL results, David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates, noted that: "Domestic automakers have performed three important actions during the past two years that have led to their gains. First, they have retired many models that demonstrated low appeal. Secondly, they have introduced new, highly appealing models to their lineups. Finally, they have improved their existing models through freshenings and redesigns."
On a more closely focused level, the 2010 J.D. Power and Associates APEAL Study data saw Porsche hold on to its highest overall APEAL ranking for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Audi; while the Mercedes-Benz S-Class earned the top individual honor for 2010. MINI led the mass-market brand brigade, followed by Buick, Volkswagen, Ford, GMC and Chevrolet. Ford further distinguished itself by nailing five segment-leader awards -- more than any other single automaker -- for its Expedition, Explorer Sport Trac, Flex, Fusion and Taurus. The APEAL Study also found that Suzuki made the greatest single year-over-year advance in its overall ranking.