Electric car manufacturers are quick to point out that the current range offered by their vehicles is more than enough to satisfy the driving needs of the majority of Americans. In fact, according to Nissan the average daily commute is just 29 miles. And yet consumers demand significantly more before they will view an EV as a viable alternative to a gasoline-powered vehicle.
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In a recent study released by J.D. Power Asia Pacific, overall customer satisfaction with new-vehicle sales has declined, while fuel efficiency is the most frequently cited factor in choosing a new vehicle.
J.D. Power and Associates released its 2012 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) and Porsche topped the list of German brands for customer satisfaction with dealer service.
The study surveys satisfaction from more than 84,000 owners of 2009-2011 model year vehicles who visited a dealer service department for maintenance or repair work. Five areas are rated in the survey: service quality, service initiation, service advisor, service facility, and vehicle pick up.
This isn’t the first time Porsche found its way to the top of a J. D. Power list, last year the 911 was rated as the “most reliable sports car“ by the agency.
Topping the list of luxury brands was Japanese automaker Lexus, with an overall CSI score of 861, performing well in service initiation, facility, and service quality. Following Lexus was Cadillac, Jaguar, Acura, and Porsche. Audi achieved the greatest improvement from 2011.
And we know, technically Lexus is Toyota, but owners of Lexus vehicles topped the rankings with 86 problems per 100 vehicles. Toyota as a brand in comparison reported 104 problems per 100 vehicles and was tied in third place with American automaker, Cadillac. Porsche was second place right behind Lexus, while Scion, Mercedes-Benz and Lincoln followed Toyota.
It’s also worth mentioning that the industry-wide rate of problems fell 13-percent from the previous year to 132 problems per 100 vehicles, the lowest since J. D. Power and Associates began the study back in 1990.
The study measures problems experienced during the past 12 months by owners of three year old vehicles, with overall dependability determined by the level of problems per 100 vehicles – the lower the score, the higher its dependability.
At least that’s the findings from the JD Power and Associates Asia Pacific 2011 China Vehicle Dependability Study, which has just been released.
Long derided by outsiders as shoddily built cars, employing copied technology from more established automakers, the JD Power CVDS (now in its second year), shows that Chinese domestic vehicles are improving in terms of reliability.
In 2011, the dependability study reported some 218 problems on average per 100 vehicles in the Chinese market, an improvement of some 80 problems per 100 cars over the previous year. Domestic brands in that country were rated overall at 309 problems per 100 vehicles, representing an improvement of some 135 pp 100 over 2010.
The gains in quality were largely due to a reduction in problems relating to vehicle exterior and engine/transmission components, as well as significant strides in the minivan sector (which saw a reduction of some 265 problems per 100 vehicles).
The 2011 China New Vehicle Dependability Study comprised evaluations from some 11,676 original owners of vehicles bought between June 2008 and August 2010, representing some 33 different cities across the country and 137 individual vehicle models from some 57 different brands (including Chinese and imported makes).
The most frequent issues cited by customers that took part in the study, included engines losing power when the A/C system was engaged, noisy brakes, poor fuel consumption, smelly HVAC vents and broken or poorly functioning windshield washer/wiper systems.
[Source: JD Power]
According to JD Power and Associates’ 2011 U.S. Interior Quality and Satisfaction Study, around two thirds of customer complaints relating to vehicle interiors, revolve around design issues rather than actual defects or malfunctions.
Gripes range from materials that scuff or damage easily, to awkward sized cupholders and center consoles that are difficult to use, as well as vehicle controls that are poorly placed and hard to operate.
The study found that in 2011, vehicle owners reported on average, some 7.2 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) regarding the vehicle interior, and 11.6 PP100 of those were related to interior design issues.
“The vehicle interior plays an important role in overall owner satisfaction with the vehicle, as well as with the initial purchase decision,” remarked Allan Dix, research director of automotive product quality at J.D. Power and Associates. “In fact, more than one-half of new-vehicle buyers cite interior comfort as one of the most important factors in choosing a vehicle. As a result, it’s crucial to improve on interior design issues—such as difficulty using the center console or door locks—as these are issues that can really make a difference to the overall vehicle ownership experience.”
It’s also interesting to note that when broken down, most of the interior complaints also centered around domestic brand vehicles (69 percent) while Far Eastern and European marques were slightly behind (66 and 64 percent respectively).
On another note, interior complaints reportedly have a negative impact when it comes to customer loyalty and recommending a particular brand or vehicle to others. According to JD Power study, of those vehicle owners that experienced no interior related ‘problems’ approximately one-half said they’d buy another vehicle again, while 74 percent said they’d recommend the same vehicle or brand to others. In contrast, for those that experienced at least one interior ‘issue,’ the advocacy rate dropped significantly to 54 percent, while customer retention plummeted to just 29 percent.
Some good news for this recession: according to J.D. Power and Associates, the cars on sale today are more appealing than ever before—all the better to win consumers in this difficult economy.
Most appealing? How is J.D. Power able to gauge this seemingly-subjective criteria? Through customer surveys of 80 vehicle attributes, combined with sales figures, which is what J.D. Power does best. Since 1996, the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study (APEAL) has been an attempt for the company to determine how much consumers enjoy the cars they’ve just bought, and despite difficult times for both the economy as well as the auto industry, people are indeed still buying cars and still giving their opinions on them.
The APEAL study found that new or redesigned models are both better-looking and have better fuel economy than their outgoing examples: two points that attract consumers more than anything else. J.D. Power maps this on a 1000-point scale, and from 778 total points in 2010, the industry average of overall vehicle appeal has jumped to 781 points—the most it’s ever been since the survey’s inception in 1996.
“The auto industry has taken a battering during the past few years,” said David Sargent, vice president of vehicle research. “However, it is clear that throughout this period, automakers have never lost sight of the fact that survival—and ultimately success—only comes from winning over customers in the showroom. Offering highly appealing vehicles is one of the primary means to succeed.”
The survey may be industry-wide, but certain manufacturers still stood out. BMW had three cars that received satisfactory ratings: the X3, Z4 and 5-Series all drove away with awards, as well as Dodge’s Challenger, Charger, and Durango. Ford and Honda each captured awards for the F-150 and Fiesta, as well as the Ridgeline and Odyssey, respectively. Some cars of note included the Chevrolet Volt, Range Rover, Lexus IS, MINI Countryman, Nissan Armada, Porsche Cayenne, Scion xB, Suzuki Kizashi, Volkswagen GTI, and the Hyundai Equus—which walked away with the highest APEAL score in the industry, beating out the usual suspects BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class for the first time, a point that will come to a Hyundai network television ad near you soon.
For the seventh year in a row, Porsche carried the highest APEAL score at 879. Suzuki, despite its aforementioned Kizashi, slithered by with the lowest. For the full ranking, click the jump to view lots of J.D. Power’s famous graphs.
Lincoln received the top award for from J.D. Power and Associates in their annual durability study, narrowly beating out Lexus as well as all other brands sold in America.
Two models from Lincoln in particular received shout-outs: the MKZ was the highest-ranked in the category of Entry Premium, and the Navigator captured the Large Premium Crossover/SUV segment. The MKZ was the second-highest performing vehicle in the study overall.
The J.D. Power and Associates study covered long-term durability for vehicles up to three years old; it charts the number of problems per 100 vehicles, and graphs them as points. This is Lincoln’s first win in the company’s 94-year histor, and it only featured 101 problems, beating out Lexus by merely 8 points. The industry average, meanwhile, is 152 points.
Overall, Ford received four top segment awards, with the two Lincolns as well as the Fusion and Mustang. But even though Lexus placed second, parent company Toyota held the most segment victories overall, with seven vehicles—almost as if the recall didn’t happen. Right?
For the full statistics (and bar graphs galore) from J.D. Power, click here.