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Porsche still most APEALing brand

Safety technologies enhance appeal in both premium and non-premium brands

Published: July 23, 2015, 1:00 AM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 1:48 PM

Porsche 911 Carrera GTS - PLAYBOY CAR OF THE YEAR: Porsche 911 Carrera GTS – Playboy admits to an on-going fling with the Porsche 911 Carrera that has lasted seven years, and counting. Admittedly it was tempted by the more track-focused GT3, which is faster, bolder in appearance and overall more macho in character. But it is the only slightly less endowed Carrera GTS that claims the grand prize.

What makes a car appealing? Safety technologies, apparently … though it certainly doesn’t hurt if you’re a sexy little sporty model.

For the 11th straight year, Porsche has ranked atop the J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, with the 2015 version showing the increasing number of safety-related technologies are having a definite impact on attracting buyers to a brand.

Mini Cooper - 2007-13 Mini Cooper Introduced for 2002, BMW’s Mini hatchback was considerably larger than Alec Issigonis’s original 1959 masterpiece – 58 cm longer, 50 cm wider and about 400 kg heavier – recast to meet contemporary crash standards. Visually, it replicated many of the original’s styling cues. The funky cockpit was punctuated by a massive centre-mounted speedometer, metallic trim and retro toggle switches, while the non-existent rear legroom was faithfully reproduced.

“Unlike technologies such as voice recognition that can be challenging to operate, most safety features provide information in a more intuitive way, giving owners a greater sense of security,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. “Not only are models increasingly offering systems that improve safety and visibility, but owners are also using them on a regular basis. This can go a long way toward generating positive feelings about their vehicle overall.”

Further, some features carry a heavier weight in their desirability. Vehicles equipped with blind spot monitoring and warning systems, for example, scored 38 points higher than those without. And the owners of those vehicles seem to be aware of their presence on a regular basis – 69 percent of owners who have the system (accounting for 36 percent of survey respondents) say they use it every time they are behind the wheel.

And although only 15 percent of respondents claimed to have had a blind-spot system before (and just 39 percent had it explained at the dealership), another J.D. Power study (2015 U.S. Tech Choice Study) showed a consumer willingness to pay a premium (pegged at $750) in order to have it.

“Over the past several years, we have seen non-premium brands increasingly offer the types of in-vehicle technologies that used to be available only to premium buyers,” said Stephens. “The positive impact these technologies have on owners is more pronounced among non-premium owners. In fact, owners of non-premium vehicles that include the latest technology register higher APEAL scores by 50 points, compared with just a 29-point increase among owners of premium vehicles with the same technologies.”

Premium brands have historically scored higher than non-premium brands in the APEAL Index, but it seems as though the gap is narrowing. Non premium brands scored four points closer to premium brands than they did a year previously and the gap has narrowed by 16 percent in the past decade.

2015 Lincoln MKC

Still, it’s Porsche at the top of the rankings (where it had been for the past ten years), with a score of 874, followed by Jaguar (855), BMW (854), Mercedes-Benz (853) and Audi (852). Mini is regarded as the top non-premium brand, ranking 11th overall with a score of 825. Its runners-up were Hyundai (14th overall, scoring 809), Volkswagen (15th, 806), GMC (16th, 804) and Ram (17th, 803).

The top North American brand was Lincoln, placing 7th with a score of 842, while Infiniti was the top Asian brand with its score of 835 good for 9th overall.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge

Now in its 20th year, the APEAL Study has become an industry benchmark for new-vehicle appeal, examining how satisfying a vehicle is to own and drive. For the 2015 study, 84,000 owners were asked to rate their new purchases (after the first 90 days of ownership) on 77 attributes, which were then combined into a rating out of 1,000 – the APEAL Index. The overall APEAL score has increased incrementally over the years, showing that carmakers appear to be on the right track in creating vehicles buyers are happy to own. For 2015, the overall score went up by four points.