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JD Power 2012 APEAL highlights ongoing downsizing trend for new car buyers in US; increasing satisfaction with smaller vehicles

J.D. Power and Associates’ latest APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) study—an examination of how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes—highlights an ongoing downsizing trend among US auto buyers, and finds that owners of small cars and light trucks are often just as satisfied with their vehicles as owners of larger ones.

The 2012 APEAL Study finds that 27% of new-vehicle buyers who replaced a vehicle downsized—i.e., purchased a new vehicle in a smaller segment than the vehicle they replaced. In contrast, only 13% of buyers upsized, while 60% 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. Automakers are heavily focused on providing the US market with appealing smaller models, and buyers may be surprised at just how good some of them are.

For many years, almost twice as many vehicle owners have down-, compared with those who have up-d. 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 imagined. 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 such as navigation system and various entertainment options. Vehicle owners who down are finding that they are actually upgrading when they buy a new vehicle.

—David Sargent, VP of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates

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% of owners say gas mileage was one of the most important factors in choosing their new vehicle, up from 40 percent in 2011.

During the past six years, vehicle appeal, as measured by the APEAL Study has significantly increased. Today’s smaller vehicles are, in many cases, more appealing than the larger vehicles they 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 just four years ago. 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 four years ago.

Other key findings from the 2012 APEAL Study include:

  • Chevrolet receives the highest number of segment awards of all brands included in the study for the Sonic, Volt and Avalanche 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; Land Rover Range Rover Evoque; Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class; Infiniti QX56 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.

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.



Buying smaller, more efficient vehicles; smaller, less costly houses/apartments; buying less recreational vehicles and gadgets; using the pleasure boats a lot less; buying less clothing etc etc are all signs that the 97 is getting poorer and poorer, not that we are getting wiser.

The 3% may be buying more and more but it is not enough to offset the lost from the 97%. Where will it lead the nation? Is it the progressive end of the glorious middle class?

Who knows!


It looks like Honda and Toyota have no apeal:)


sd...Toyota has 5 models in the first 10. Have you looked it up?


July 2012 was a very bad month for GM and Ford sales while Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Chrysler and Honda had good increases in their sales.

GM's large vehicles did much better than their smaller units. Does this indicate that Americans are going back to large cars or that they do not have confidence in GM's smaller cars?

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