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Car Safety Features Increase Owner Satisfaction

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J.D. Power APEAL

Image of driver and J.D. Power and Associates APEAL award, courtesy J.D. Power and Associates

A new study by J.D. Power and Associates found that owners of new cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans thought vehicles equipped with driver-assist safety features were more desirable than vehicles without them, Tara Baukus Mello wrote for Bankrate. The findings come from more than 80,000 new car buyers and people who leased 2016 cars and pickup trucks.

The J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, now in its 21st year, surveyed participants on 90 vehicle attributes between February and May of this year, after they had owned their new vehicles for 90 days.

Technology-Enabled Safety Features

Those surveyed gave higher APEAL scores to vehicles with features including blind-spot monitoring and low-speed-collision avoidance than to similar vehicles lacking those features.

Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power, said:

Technology-enabled safety features help drivers feel more comfortable and confident while driving their vehicles. These features are also ‘gateway technologies’ to autonomous driving capabilities, so the continued level of consumer interest in them will be a critical metric to watch as the industry evolves toward including more automation in new vehicles.

APEAL Study Categories

The APEAL study is based on vehicle attributes in eight categories, including:

  • Engine/transmission
  • Ride, handling, and braking
  • Comfort/convenience
  • Seats
  • Cockpit/instrument panel
  • Heating, ventilation and cooling
  • Sound system
  • Styling/exterior

Change Over Time

In some of the categories, the study asked vehicle owners to weigh in on scores that have improved over previous years. The category with the largest increase in score was owner satisfaction with their car’s fuel economy. The category  “audio/communication/entertainment/navigation” was six points higher than in the past, followed by “visibility and safety,” which rose by four points.

The one category that did not show an increased score was “engine/transmission,” which, however, was only one point lower than in the past. Most of those car owners who offered criticism in this category said they were unhappy with the transmission when shifting, because it wasn’t smooth. Also, those surveyed gave less than stellar ratings to the usefulness and ease of use of their cars’ navigation systems.

Porsche a Perennial Winner

This was the 12th year in a row that Porsche had the highest overall APEAL score —  877 out of a possible 1,000. BMW ranked second, with a score of 859. Third place was a tie between Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, with 852; and Land Rover, Lexus, and Lincoln tied for fifth place, each scoring 843. Among non-luxury brands, Volkswagen ranked highest, with 809. It was followed by Mini, at 808; Kia, at 807; Ford and Ram at 803; and GMC, at 802.

One commenter named Phil Bickel opined that the list of vehicles that got the best scores was “obviously” one that the automakers had paid to be placed on, saying the scores given to the Kia Sedona, and Smart Fortwo were “giveaways.” But JDPowerCars wrote the following in response:

All J.D. Power automotive study results are based on survey responses from verified vehicle owners. Awards are not paid for. Rather, they reflect the Voice of the Customer. Each of the models featured in this gallery are, according to actual owners, the most appealing in their respective vehicle segment. The Sedona received high consumer ratings for Performance, Features and Instrument Panel, Style, and Comfort. The Smart Fortwo received high consumer ratings for Features and Instrument Panel, Style, and Comfort.

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