Dodge leads J.D. Power APEAL study; most owners satisfied with their vehicles

(July 23, 2020) When it comes to driving sales, as well as generating brand loyalty and advocacy, vehicles that create joy for their owners often overcome any negatives caused by problems they experience. This phenomenon is most effectively seen in the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, released this week.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Dodge brand, known for its dedication to muscle cars, led mass marketers in a study measuring excitement and emotional attachment to new vehicles. Dodge is the first domestic brand to earn first-place honors in the appeal study as well as J.D. Power's initial quality study in the same year.

Dodge was followed by FCA's Ram truck brand — which had a strong third-place showing in the latest IQS and topped the 2019 appeal rankings — GMC, Ford and Mini in the top five. While performance-driven Dodge led the way, FCA's Jeep finished last. Toyota — which has been updating the styling of key models such as the Camry, Corolla and RAV4, in addition to reviving the flashy Supra in recent years — placed second to last. Finishing just above them were Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Subaru and Buick.

Among premium brands, Porsche led the way for the second consecutive year. It was followed by Lincoln, Cadillac, BMW and Land Rover in the top five. The average score for luxury brands was 861, compared with 838 for mass-market brands, and the gap between the two — 23 points — is the narrowest in the study's history.

“Purchasing the ‘right’ vehicle is influenced by a variety of factors, depending on each buyer’s specific tastes, wants and needs,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “The APEAL Study measures an owner’s emotional attachment to their new vehicle and in what areas that vehicle may not be delivering on all of the positive experiences that were hoped for. Understanding this is just as valuable to automakers as knowing about quality issues and owner acceptance of new technologies. The goal for automakers is to delight customers on all these dimensions. Some are better than others at doing this.”

Now in its 25th year, the study has been redesigned for 2020. It complements the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) and the J.D. Power Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study by measuring owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle across 37 attributes, ranging from the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat to the feeling they get when they step on the accelerator. These attributes are aggregated to compute an overall APEAL index score measured on a 1,000-point scale.

Key findings of the 2020 study:

    •    Some vehicles deliver both outstanding levels of APEAL and initial quality: Eight models receiving APEAL segment awards also received awards in the 2020 Initial Quality Study: Audi A3, BMW X6, Cadillac CT6, Genesis G70, Hyundai Veloster, Jaguar E-Pace, Nissan Armada and Nissan Maxima.
    •    Dodge’s notable achievement: By being the top-ranked mass market brand, Dodge becomes the first domestic brand to rank highest in the mass market segment for both APEAL and IQS in the same year. Only Hyundai has previously achieved the feat in the mass market segment, while Genesis, Lexus and Porsche have done so in the luxury segment.

    •    Tesla profiled for first time: Tesla receives an APEAL index score of 896. The automaker is not officially ranked among other brands in the study as it doesn’t meet ranking criteria. “Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required,” said Doug Betts, president of the automotive division at J.D. Power. “However, we were able to collect a large enough sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states and, from that base, we calculated Tesla’s score.”

Highest-ranking brands

Porsche ranked highest in the luxury segment and overall with a score of 881. Lincoln (876) ranks second, followed by Cadillac (874), BMW (869) and Land Rover (866).

Dodge ranked highest in the mass market segment with a score of 872. Ram (871) ranks second, followed by GMC (857), Ford (853) and MINI (846).

Mazda climbed the most in the mass market rankings, placing nine spots higher than in 2019. Cadillac climbs six places in the premium rankings, the most in that segment.

Model-level APEAL Awards

The parent company receiving the most model-level awards (given to models ranking highest in their respective segment) is Hyundai Motor Group (five awards), followed by BMW AG and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., with four each.

The complete list of award recipients is:

    •    Hyundai Motor Group: Genesis G70; Hyundai Sonata; Hyundai Veloster; Kia Stinger; and Kia Telluride
    •    BMW AG: BMW 7 Series; BMW X4; BMW X6; and MINI Countryman
    •    Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.: Nissan Armada; Nissan Maxima; Nissan Sentra; and Nissan Versa
    •    General Motors Company: Cadillac CT6; Chevrolet Blazer; and GMC Sierra HD
    •    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: Dodge Challenger and Ram 1500
    •    Ford Motor Company: Ford Escape and Lincoln Navigator
    •    Honda Motor Company: Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline
    •    Jaguar Land Rover Limited: Jaguar E-Pace and Land Rover Range Rover Velar
    •    Mazda Motor Corporation: Mazda CX-5
    •    Toyota Motor Corporation: Toyota C-HR
    •    Volkswagen AG: Audi A3

The BMW X6 is the highest-scoring model in the study. Receiving a model-level award for a third consecutive year are MINI Countryman and Nissan Maxima. BMW X4, Chevrolet Blazer, Dodge Challenger, Honda Odyssey and Lincoln Navigator each receive a model-level award for a second consecutive year.

The 2020 U.S. APEAL Study is based on responses from 87,282 owners of new 2020 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. It was fielded from February through May 2020.