By on July 23, 2015

2014 Porsche Cayman S at 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

There’s a considerable need for independent research and analysis, especially when it comes to cars.

But I have something to tell you about J.D. Power and Associate’s annual Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout study: it’s remarkably flawed.

The annual survey — alongside most other annual surveys — serves as a stump from which automakers proudly proclaim, “We’re the best, see? These guys just said so.”

But the APEAL survey, alongside J.D. Power and Associate’s Initial Quality Survey, give a distorted glimpse at the reality of buying a car.

They have no perception of cost. And that’s a big, big problem.

If you could afford a new Porsche, how satisfied with that purchase will you be in 90 days, when seemingly nothing expensive has gone wrong? What about 4 years later when warranties start to wane, and regular maintenance includes parts like a notoriously fussy internal oil separator that runs $2,000 to fix? Rear calipers that run $3,000? Or a $523.50 oil change? That Porsche you purchased may not be all that appealing anymore, I’m guessing, regardless of the awards J.D. Power can heap upon the company.

(Even further, I’m guessing the buyer who can drop $100,000 on a sports car is the type of buyer that can ditch that car for another sports car in three years and report that they’re pleased as punch again with the purchase.)

Meanwhile, if your bought-on-a-budget Toyota Corolla lugged your soul-crushing commute to work at 7 a.m., how stoked are you on that purchase 90 days — or even 90 minutes — after walking off the lot? I bought a new toaster last week and I wasn’t jazzed about it before I checked out at the register.

There needs to be a dose of reality when viewing these surveys. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover all topped the list of initial appeal, but also topped Forbes’ list of most expensive cars to fix.

It makes sense. Really expensive cars are really nice. Really nice, expensive cars are also really complicated. I know, because I drive them all the time. An S-Class is more appealing than a Toyota Yaris because Mercedes-Benz makes really nice cars that cost a lot of money.

To say that Porsches have more appeal than Subarus is a no brainer; I don’t need 77 attributes with a verified score out of 1,000 to say that a big house with a rollercoaster looks better than a small house with a leaking basement. But I can only afford one of those.

But I do need a study that reliably and logically presents their ownership, maintenance, resale proportional to budget. Average MSRP and cost of ownership don’t factor into the J.D. Power survey.

That’s not to say Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar or Audi make bad cars. J.D. Power just makes a narrow study that’s contorted way beyond its intent or measure.

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75 Comments on “Wait a Second Before You Invest Any More Energy in J.D. Power...”


  • avatar

    You’re either gonna pay a car note or a mechanic (or fix it yourself with parts you bought from Ebay)

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      My average repair costs in a year for the H2 I DD probably averages out at $500 a year, and that includes repairs from beating it around.
      Find me a car payment that gets me a V8 and almost 3.5 tons of truck that I can go offroad with for $500 a year.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        S55 AMG, spent about $950 in DIY repairs this month and still not sure it’s fixed. If I spread that across the roughly four months I’ve owned it, it’s not horrible if the bleeding stops. If not, might have to send this turkey packing.
        It’s the ABC system if you’re wondering.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          What’s wrong with it, and what did you do for those $950?

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            *sigh*
            ABC pump leaked, topped up hydraulic fluid ($25 a quart), took pump out tried to find leak, presumed pump was leaking. Bought kit to replace all seals in pump, $125, disassembled, reassembled, installed, added more expensive Pentosin to fill back what leaked. Stopped leaking briefly, then resumed leaking. Ordered rebuilt pump for $650, removed old (BTW, it’s neither fun nor easy to complete this task, twice now). Removed valve block for cleaning and reinstallation. Topped up with yet more Pentosin and while it has stopped leaking, the driver front strut won’t pump up. Spent most of the evening (and every evening all week so far) to try to get it sorted, failed. Tow truck is coming tomorrow to take it somewhere where I presume I will get to spend another $950 or more to get it finally resolved.
            I’m rather grouchy about the whole thing.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The secret to happiness with something like that is a spare car.

            Ultimately – how much did you pay for it vs. what it cost new? Spend the money and enjoy the fabulous ride, still massively cheaper than what the original owner spent on depreciation the first couple years. Heck this repair is probably cheaper than what the PO spent on *sales tax*.

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            I’m trying to be realistic about the costs of a new(ish) car payment vs what I paid for this thing (15k) and it’s repair costs. It’s hard to be objective when you’re covered in expensive hydraulic fluid, tired from working all day and then all night. The biggest factor is downtime; if I had the spare car this might not be AS painful, but then I’m spending a lot on cars. Wifey likes cars, but does not like a lopsided budget.
            As for the sales tax, they showed me the original price, I think it was about $110k in ’05. Ohio sales tax was 6% then I believe so yeah, haven’t gotten to sales tax yet.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            That’s the trade-off. You can either spend $110K to have a new one (or $70K for a CPO) or you can buy it for the price of a base Corolla used and either have sweat equity of spend $$$$$ with a mechanic. But either way you are getting a pretty nice ride for pennies on the dollar.

            I’m changing the waterpump in my ’01 Range Rover tomorrow – oh joy. But I just think about the $75K I saved vs. what it cost new and smile. Then I don’t mind the day or so a year I spend getting grungy fixing it.

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        > My average repair costs in a year for the H2 I DD probably averages out at $500 a year

        That seems kinda high for a Tahoe with square corners tacked on it, but GM learned a lot from P.T. Barnum.

      • 0 avatar
        CrackerBall

        Yes… Hummer is such an amazing vehicle that GM drove it right into the ground with their fake HumVee and subsequent GM bastardized homologation H3.

        Lucking, the cream rises to the top… and the Hummer, Saab, Saturn, Pontiac and Oldsmobile have sunk to the bottom. Well done GM… well done.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      All cars need repairs and maintenance every now and then.
      Making payments (72-84 months – are you kidding?!) does NOT guarantee that no repairs will be needed.
      Part of the problem with German cars is that they are engineered to be unserviceable by anyone but a trained dealer mechanic with specialized tools. The only tool that the owner need bother with is an American Express card.

      I’ll fix my own cars myself, thank you, and you are right – Ebay can be a very good source for parts.

      The author’s point of how useless JD Powers 90-day satisfaction index is, is spot-on.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @RHD

        Sorry, but as the owner of one, soon to be two, modern German cars you are simply wrong. You may need some different tools, but they are still just cars. It’s not rocket surgery. I don’t find my BMW to be any harder to work on than my Triumph Spitfire. More complex, but no harder. The BMW can actually tell me what ails it too.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If you want different data, then go look at other data. This particular data set wasn’t intended for you.

    This is akin to disliking steak because it doesn’t taste like chicken. As we all know, steak isn’t supposed to taste like chicken and we should not fault it because it doesn’t. If you want chicken, then order it — ordering the steak and then griping about it doesn’t make much sense.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Cole

      Asking a consumer research group to provide valuable consumer data isn’t outside the realm of common sense, I think.

      In my view, it’s closer to going to a restaurant and asking they serve food that’s edible. Isn’t that why they’re in business?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        It’s not a consumer research group. It’s an B2B industry consultant.

        You and I don’t pay JD Power a penny. They sell detailed versions of this data to OEMs. And those guys want to know whether the sweet turns to sour with their customers.

        • 0 avatar
          Aaron Cole

          “At J.D. Power our aim is to be the premier leader representing the Voice of the Customer to drive improvement of products and services, and ultimately business results, for companies globally.”

          That sounds to me like a consumer research group. If they’re the Voice of the Customer, it seems to me like it’s an awfully large oversight to disregard price. Which is likely one of the first things out of a consumer’s mouth: “How much does it cost?”

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            In the advertising biz, they refer to that as “puffery,” i.e. a fib that you’re expected to know is a fib.

            Follow the money. The OEMs pay them, and we don’t. This information isn’t really intended for us.

            If you were making cars, then this information might be a lot more useful to you. You could do more of the things that people like by doing it better and adding it to different vehicles, and you can stop doing the stuff that annoys them.

            As a consumer, you can use this information if you accept it for what it is. I would be more inclined to use something like this for the negatives, i.e. a car that gets low marks from new owners might make you wonder whether the honeymoon would end quickly for you, too.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            JD Power collects data and sells it to companies in a number of different industries. The financial services industry uses JD Power quite a bit. The insurance industry uses JD Power for total loss valuations.

            Like Pch says, it’s not a company end consumers buy from.

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            Ha ha yeah, writing an article about how you disagree with something is dumb! It’s kind of like finding an article that you disagree with and writing a comment about how you disagree with it!
            Not hypocritical at ALL.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If someone gave a negative review to a pony car because it can’t carry large sheets of plywood or carry seven people, then that review would probably be off the mark.

            There is a difference between critiquing something because it fails to accomplish its mission and faulting it for not doing things that it was never designed to do.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            It’s not really a fib when you consider who their customer is.

          • 0 avatar
            qfrog

            I think they are owned by McGraw Hill.

            https://www.mhfi.com/about/our-businesses/jdp

            Extracting money from auto mfgs is what this is all about. Feeding the mfgs paranoias and then giving out bogus awards for not having brake pad dust that is dark and gets noticed. For real.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            One fair criticism of these JD Power surveys is that they’re very long. I have to wonder whether respondents tune out a lot of the questions, which would impact their accuracy. (The early questions might be answered more accurately than the later ones, for example.)

            But JD Power was ahead of the curve in some respects. Consumers now demand to be pampered. Now, automakers can’t afford to wait years before responding to deficiencies. The internet just creates that much more pressure.

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            Must be right at all costs
            Must challenge any viewpoints that do not agree with my own
            Must have final word
            MUST RESPOND TO ALL THREATS

            Ladies and gentlemen, your PCHbot.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’m pretty upset. I came to TTAC to find out about which golf clubs I should buy, and I don’t see a single article that talks about that.

            Why doesn’t TTAC satisfy my need for golfing information? What am I supposed to do, go look somewhere else for it?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          What do you play Pch101?

          I’ve played Titleist irons since I was I high school. I use a Nike SW and a Ping Zing LW I’ve had since I was 14. For many years I played a titleist driver (975D and later J) and a Adams Tight Lies 4W, but in recent years I switched to a Ping driver and Callaway fairway woods (3W and 7W) and putt with a Scotty Cameron.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If you ever see me playing golf, place your bets on the other guy.

            If I start getting excited about drivers, you’ll be better off if you lead me to a steering wheel, not a green. Trust me on this.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        They’re a consumer research group that provides consumer research data **to businesses**.

        In that sense, they’re less like a Health Inspector, and more like a “Best Hot Dog in the City” award.

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      +1

  • avatar
    kmoney

    Ninety day quality reports are generally BS anyway. Even the worst cars these days can at least hold up their perceptions of quality for 3 months. Second, confirmation bias is still in full effect at 90 days. Even if you buy the worst car in existence, you’re still going to talk yourself up about it for a while. I mean, have you ever had someone who just bought a car come up to you and say “hey, I just bought this: I hate the Rubbermade interior, bathmat upholstery, and agricultural grade engine. I don”t know why I paid $13K for it off the lot…”

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      If you built cars and sold them to the public, then you would want to know whether the romance is still in bloom some time after the car has left the showroom.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Exactly. This 90 day window appears to measure things like whether there were water spots on the dash, whether the dealer followed up with the end customer and asked if they were happy, etc.

      It’s a dealer prep survey more than anything else.

  • avatar
    stuki

    The only reason all these “surveys” and “ratings” and “independent research” exists in the first place, is because 150 years of pervasive publicly funded indoctrination, have largely succeeded in turning the populace into a gaggle of sheeple, sufficiently insecure to draw breath in the morning without having some supposed “expert” telling them it is the “right” thing to do.

    Europe, where the poor saps are unable to commit to a pack of gum without first justifying it with reference to some “Best in Test” award, was a decade or two ahead of the US down this particular rabbit hole. But it has come here in full force as well. Severely amplified by the Internet and the aggressive redistribution of incomes in the direction of the demographic most typically affected. Alongside the particularly Anglo tradition of stiff upper lip “reviewers” being given at least equal billing vs the creators of what they “review.”

    It is also known and highly concerning problem for manufacturers/marketers. Many/Most of them still have to play the game, but in particular the big Japanese makers are doing their very best to undermine it, and return to a world where marketing is a dialog between the maker and a potential buyer. Rather than one moderated and refereed by a gaggle of self important loudmouths who rarely, if ever, represents more than a tiny niche of actual, in the wild, preferences.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The only performance metric I care about is which vehicle gets me the most ladies. Which one publishes that information?

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    JD Power is a joke and although I don’t have any data to support this I think most savvy consumers know this. Far more egregious was CR saying the Boxster should last 250k miles.

  • avatar
    red60r

    When I see an ad with a stack of JDP awards being brandished at the camera, I usually head for the exits. By the time they get to the end of the list of qualifiers and category limitations, you are looking at the award recipient for “Best 2015 Buick that is painted red”. As has been pointed out above, Initial Quality better be spot-on perfect, or they’re getting the thing back. There is no excuse for a new product to be delivered in less than 100%-ready condition. The ad folks must see data that suggest that the target audience wouldn’t know the difference between an around-the-block-at-25-mph “test drive” and an enthusiast-type bashing on the back roads and maybe some track time to see what this sled will really do when asked. Truth be told, you get what you pay for. Lowest MSRP is what sells the most units.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    “J.D. Power just makes a narrow study that’s contorted way beyond its intent or measure.”
    Great article except for this last sentence. If we’re talking about money then the intent of every J.D. Power survey is right on target: to extort huge fees that are paid by the “winning” manufacturer to J.D Power to use their logo and superiority claim the marketing of their vehicles.

  • avatar
    Chan

    It’s the new owner smugness survey. Ultimately a tool for the brands to use in their own marketing.

    The average Corolla buyer won’t feel as smug about his purchase as the average Macan buyer. Because a Porsche buyer is in a way buying an item to satisfy his or her desires, as opposed to the Toyota buyer acquiring a tool with which to complete certain tasks.

    I am under no illusion of owning luxury and sports cars for any practical or rational reason. Some own them to impress others. I happen to enjoy owning, using and understanding them immensely.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “But the APEAL survey, alongside J.D. Power and Associate’s Initial Quality Survey, give a distorted glimpse at the reality of buying a car”

    Well, yes and no. The reports are designed for automakers as marketing material and a gauge of first-blush satisfaction.
    If you want a report on TCO and reliability, that’s Consumer Reports’ purveyance, although CR _also_ rates satisfaction and performance separately from reliability.

    It really helps to remember who the customer is; in the case of JDP’s reports, the OEM is. In CR, the buyer is. It shouldn’t be a surprise (because this has been the case for a very, very long time and it’s well-understood) but it is.

    It doesn’t really distort anything; it reports on a specific set of metrics that don’t quite happen to be the metrics you think they are. Again, to use CR as an example, people make a similar mistake in that they don’t read what “Recommended” means, or don’t realize that CR has three ratings scales (again, performance, reliability/TCO and satisfaction) and complain about CR favourably rating a problematic car.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I’m still waiting for the J D Powers 3rd owner, 150k mile customer satisfaction report.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Since this is an entirely opinion-based article, can we label it as such? Just pop an “OPINION:” in front of the title. Or call it Piston Slap or whatever other clever name you want.

    If it’s published by Aaron I’m going to assume it’s news unless labeled differently. He’s the news correspondent.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    The only real survey that has the ultimate say is the resell value, aka depreciation, in the market.

    When people start voting with their wallet as well as their tolerance of troubles from the ownership experience, then you get the real meaningful prediction of how good is the car meeting the expectation.

    Am I fair to compare a near new corolla to a well worn Porsche? You bet, as long as they cost about the same.

  • avatar
    InterstateNomad

    I think people forget how the psychology of car purchases has been known to car companies for years. They want to minimize “cognitive dissonance”, whereby you get information that contradicts your decision as a good purchase. More people care about car ads and reviews for cars and brands they already own or like, than to actually change their mind.

    Just observe the discussions here on these articles. Or better yet, the next time somebody asks your opinion on a car purchase, see how many actually care about your genuine opinion, or just simply want you to affirm their predetermined biases. People just want a pat on the back and to be assured that their purchase was the right one, and those who spend a lot of money definitely want to feel good about their purchases.

  • avatar
    Fred

    You can give me the “top 10” but if I don’t know the criteria by which those items are judged then it’s pretty much worth nothing.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    The author is mistaken in his criticism in this instance. There is no “4 years later” with this award. This is how satisfied one is with their car within the first 90 days of ownership. Nothing more. This is NOT a dependability study, but more of a “new car satisfaction” survey. And as with most things, it’s all relative. A new car proportionate to ones salary feels just as good personally whether it’s a students new Corolla or a shipping magnate’s Maybach.

    The important survey are the dependability studies and THOSE are the ones that really mean something. As with all awards, one merely needs to be aware of which ones really matter. There is no flaw with the award, is just doesn’t really matter to most educated buyers.

  • avatar
    wmba

    I really couldn’t care less whether JDP initial quality measures anything of importance, and neither do they. All they want to do is to sell statistics to the car manufacturer.

    The manufacturers, if they do well on these so-called surveys, want to advertise to the final buffoon, the customer, about how they did so well on this bought and paid for “research”.

    It’s all highly disingenuous, and just one of the dozens of horse manure “studies” which purport to report “definitively” on one thing or another. It’s like politicians – watch one speak if you want to see a person lie in real time.

    All this fluff about JDP, “Oh, but it’s not a survey for, you know, the actual customer, it’s a survey for the manufacturers” is just that. What are the results actually used for? To advertise to Joe Schmoe, an apparent complete idiot who will believe anything he/she is fed. That’s what the manufacturers want – to snow under any objections to a sale.

    Any tactic will do, and this is just one of them.

    I regard any of this stuff as a waste of my time and just part of the background hum of Marketing trying to get my attention. It’s completely unethical horse manure, but then so is pretty much everything else vying for your attention.

    I didn’t always feel this way. But as the years go buy, all I see is the increasing unseemly scrabble for increased sales, wherein supercharged egos vie for a bigger bonus, ethics be damned. Look at all those ethical bankers, ha ha. It’s all just base money-grubbing from people who have hypnotized themselves to believe that they are flag-draped useful members of society and excellent capitalists to boot.

    Frankly all these manufacturer-sponsored surveys need to spend time where they’re really needed – in the trash can.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      If you actually read the content, then the moral of the story is that car buyers feel more secure when they have technology. That’s useful information to automakers.

      An anecdote: A friend of mine just got a new car, and it took him over a week to figure out that he had a backup camera. (Yeah, don’t ask.)

      He was absolutely thrilled to have it. His feelings about the car improved once he knew that he had it. But no one at the dealership pitched him about it or pointed it out to him. Apparently, no one even thought to ask.

      As it turns out, he’s not alone — the survey data highlights that he is not part of a tiny minority. It would behoove the OEM to get their dealers to understand that people like this stuff and to show their customers how to use it, so that more customers might buy them and that those who do buy them will like their cars even more. It may also help them to focus on the designs of this stuff to make them even more desirable. Data helps to quantify the need and the benefit.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    The more you spend, and the smarter you think you are, the more likely you are to answer survey questions to validate your expenditure and self-perception. “I made a great decision and spent my money wisely!”

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      People who design surveys for a living aren’t all idiots. They don’t just ask questions such as, “Isn’t X really awesome?”

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        All of the top makes in the rankings are status makes. Think about that and get back to me.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The survey measures satisfaction levels with various levels of equipment. Apparently, better equipped cars with more tech make people happier.

          It might help if you actually read it.

          • 0 avatar
            doublechili

            So I’m still trying to understand the value of this survey then. The way you state it seems to diminish the worth. Spend more money, get more stuff, like it better. Does that apply to things like houses and phones too?

            And would my wife like a Honda Pilot with the full plate of Honda Sensing safety features and the upgraded seats, audio, etc more than the stripper model? I’ll bet she would. But would she say she likes it as much as someone down the street says they like their (relatively) similarly-equipped BMW or Mercedes? Because supposedly the thing that really counts here is safety features according to JD Power. Or is there some kind of underlying status thing still going on?

            I don’t care how smart the testers are – I don’t believe they can entirely get around something that’s irrational – like status. Why else would people spend more money for exactly the same product simply because of the labeling (see something as simple as household and food products for that)….

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Argh. Go read the thing.

            They ask about stuff such as the lane departure warning system and parking assist. Do you have them? Do you use them? Do you like them? Why do you like them? How often do you use them? How much would you be willing to pay to have them again? etc.

            You’re all hot and bothered about something that you know nothing about.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    “You’re all hot and bothered about something that you know nothing about.”

    Wouldn’t be the first time.

    Or maybe that’s your way of saying I win? ;)

    But if you’re talking about testing being the know-nothing thing, I’m making a pretty big-picture point here. If someone pays $40,000 for a Pilot with, among other things, Honda Sensing safety features, are they going to have as much underlying/subconscious/you-name-it incentive to answer positively as someone who paid twice as much for essentially the same vehicle?

    And if it’s simply a laundry list and the vehicles that have the most checked boxes wins, what’s the point of a survey since you seem to be saying the best equipped vehicle will win? It’s like when you read “$30 million study determines that men like breasts”….

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      You still haven’t read the press release, have you?

      It specifically contradicts your main contention, as it notes that non-premium brands are gaining. But I suppose that you wouldn’t want to know what this thing measures, since you’ve already decided that it does something else.


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