By on July 25, 2019

J.D. Power’s Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, cleverly nicknamed as APEAL, was released on Wednesday. While we absolutely wouldn’t recommend using it as the foundation for your next vehicular purchase, it is a fun way to examine how the public views the various brands after 90 days of ownership.

Technically an automotive popularity contest, the 2019 APEAL study examines an owners’ “emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle across 77 attributes, ranging from the power they feel when they step on the gas to the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat,” according to its publisher.

Expectedly, premium brands performed better overall — no doubt helped by their high-falutin owners’ smug sense of self-satisfaction. But there were a few pedestrian nameplates that managed to buck the trend and find themselves in the mix. 

Porsche made a comeback, stealing first place from Genesis — which was last year’s king and tied with Porsche for second in 2019. However, based on J.D. Power’s 1000-point scale, the actual difference moving down the list is nearly negligible. While Porsche held a commanding lead with 891 points, the rest of the luxury field was all over one another. With the premium brand average sitting at 853, only Cadillac (852), Lexus (848), Alfa Romeo  (846), Jaguar (843), Acura (832), and Infiniti (828) fell below the mean.

Mainstream brands averaged at 818 points, with Ram (851) and Dodge (848) beating out a decent number of luxury brands. This was also the case for Mini (835), Volkswagen (829), and Ford (828). But the rest of the regular-people marques were so damned close that it’s hardly worth mentioning. They all performed above 800, with the exception of Mitsubishi. The triple-chestnut brand only yielded a score of 773, despite evidence that it has been trying hard to turn things around and even managed to improve sales over the last couple of years. Meanwhile, Buick made it by the skin of its teeth with a score of 800 (maybe it’s the ads).

If you want to see how the mid-pack contenders managed or just examine the metrics used, check out the study on J.D. Power’s website and draw your own conclusions. But there are a few things you’ll probably notice immediately. First, overall happiness seems to have gone up across the board vs previous years. People seem more satisfied all around — something the researchers attributed to industrywide improvements in infotainment and safety.

The other takeaway is that there are hardly any “good cars” left on the market. Broken down by individual models, and showcasing the top three vehicles from each segment, the study found itself shy one auto in four of the nine established car categories. This was reportedly due to there not being enough models that performed above the industry average on the survey. We imagine this is simply the result of there being so few low-riding automobiles left on the market, as fewer players mean fewer winners.

J.D. Power gave a strange account of how cars have developmentally stagnated despite reporting that the APEAL gap between cars and “SUVs” actually shrank this year. It noted that cars continue to outperform crossovers in terms of fuel economy and engine/transmission satisfaction”because cars are lighter,” while also stating that crossovers had the edge everywhere else… including “driving dynamics.”

“Fuel economy will always be an important consideration for shoppers, but they are increasingly wowed by the capability of modern SUVs,” explained Dave Sargent, Vice President of Global Automotive at J.D. Power.

We’ve similarly been impressed by the improvements made in crossover vehicles over the last few years (some even drive like cars now). But perhaps “driving dynamics” is a broadly applied term in the APEAL study and incorporates the confidence one feels sitting higher in the saddle? Since the J.D Power never wants to share the finer points of its research with the general public, we’re never going to know.

We wouldn’t worry about any sweeping assessments between cars and SUVs, though. It’s very nearly apples and oranges. Besides, a subset of the people J.D. Power depends upon for its survey data clearly have terrible taste.

[Images: Porsche AG; J.D. Power]

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53 Comments on “Automotive Popularity Contest: J.D. Power Releases APEAL Study for 2019...”


  • avatar
    R Henry

    Any study that describes Nissan Maxima as “highest ranked” is disconnected from reality.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      ditto for rental fodder Altima – a major reason Nissan is in such dire straits

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I think you aren’t seeing the big picture. Fact is Nissan buyers are at the Nissan store because they can’t get the credit/afford the other cars. Chances are high that the Nissan is their first new car. So compared to the 10 year old heap they traded in the new car is light years ahead in just about every way.

      Even with buyers who may be on their umpteenth new vehicle, fact is they choose what ever vehicle they did because they felt it was the best one for their particular situation. Now they are just reporting how they feel about certain aspects 6 months in.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Fact is Nissan buyers are at the Nissan store because they can’t get the credit/afford the other cars.”

        You are going to have to back up this “fact”.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I agree. That just doesn’t seem factual since many young military people in MY region do not finance with Nissan but with any of the excellent lenders like Credit Union PFCU, NFCU, OFCU, GECU or lender/insurer USAA instead.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I would say that some brands (Nissan, FCA, Mitsubishi, H/K) market more to subprime buyers and the comparatively larger discounts on those brands appeal to lower income households.

            However, in 2019 auto lending standards are far from strict and are largely universal. If you can get financed on a new Maxima then you can get financed for the same amount from Honda, Toyota, Ford, or even Mercedes.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            You’re right, and maybe that’s why the defaults on car loans are rising, in spite of the excellent US economy with more than 7-Million job openings and less than 6-million unemployed in America.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Kia, but not Hyundai.

            The typical buyer of the Sonata from 2 generations ago had an income level and FICO score on par w/ the Accord buyer and higher than the Camry buyer.

            Also, the ATP of the Elantra at that time was $1,500 higher than that for the Corolla.

            Kia is kinda weird in that it has buyers from both ends of the market.

            Those looking for value/something affordable and those wanting something a little nicer than the typical mainstream model (which is why Kia launched the SX-L trim).

            The most recent example of this is the Telluride w/ the SXP package.

            Kia stopped taking order as there is a 6 month wait and there have been a decent # of buyers who switched from a lux brand offering.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Since the SXP is so difficult to get, buyers have been paying above MSRP (in some cases, well above sticker).

            Not uncommon to see a dual-Kia household by way of a Stinger GT2 and Telluride SXP.

            That’s about $100k in the driveway.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenn

            “…the excellent US economy with more than 7-Million job openings and less than 6-million unemployed in America.”

            Putting a rosy spin on the reality of how many (> 80%) are living paycheck-to-paycheck, while not being able to afford the education to move into one of those unfilled, decent-paying jobs (with a healthcare plan). This hasn’t changed in many years, and is certainly not better now.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Kenn, I’m sure that there are always people in a society that are left behind. That’s the reality. There will always be losers who never get ahead no matter how hard they try.

            But for millions of others, life has greatly improved since the current guy was elected.

            I hope it lasts. Eventually all good things come to an end. And these great economic times, too, shall pass.

            But for others, they can take this windfall opportunity to get their financial ducks lined up for their future.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @hdc: “But for millions of others, life has greatly improved since the current guy was elected.”

            — I have to disagree. Things ARE getting worse and it’s because our government is wasting money AND screwing with trade. Trade is so screwed right now that our farmers CAN’T sell to their traditional customers and many have already committed suicide because they can’t even afford to buy new seed for planting a different, salable, crop. And then our government spends billions of dollars just to keep the factory farms alive until this idiotic “trade war” it caused finally ends, which will happen when our current administration is replaced (whether in ’20 or ’24.)

            You think we’re doing good but do a little digging. The only people making money are the people who already HAVE money.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Vulpine, I realize that the sense of betterment isn’t affecting everyone equally.

            But it has me and mine, and millions of others, both retired, and still working.

            Lowest unemployment rate ever – that’s gotta be a good thing! Stock market doing tremendously – that’s gotta be good for anyone’s retirement plan! Fewer people on welfare and foodstamps – WOW, why would anyone complain about that?

            Why would anyone prefer the eight years of the past administration?

            I never had much money until we retired and started taking money OUT of the system we had been feeding for 5 decades.

            Everyone I have come in contact with since in the US and abroad has told me they were positively affected by the economic policies of the current administration.

            None missed the economic policies of the last administration. None wanted to see the last guy back in the White House.

            But fear not, these times (good or bad for you) shall also pass. Maybe as soon as Jan 2021.

            So the bottom line is to make hay while the sun shines, as in for those who are doing great now to get ready for the downturn once President Trump is voted out of office, or leaves office after eight years.

            Personally, I hope it is the latter. ’cause Life is Good (LG).

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @hdc: The problem seems to be that you can’t see the truth for the hype. Maybe I’m wrong but too many people spout what they’ve been told without looking into the background. For instance:

            • Lowest unemployment rate ever
            — The truth is that most of these people have fallen off the rolls; they’ve been unemployed for so long they cannot receive unemployment insurance any longer until they’ve had a paying job for at least six months. Most now are “self employed” doing odd jobs, “flipping” vehicles or houses and other relatively menial labor off the books (to avoid taxes.) Others are out-and-out welfare recipients with no income and little hope of getting the kind of work they want. They can’t support a family on minimum wage so they LET the “illegal immigrants” take those minimum-wage jobs. About the only caucasians working a fast-food joint are elderly, trying to supplement their Social Security checks.

            That’s right, there are NOT “fewer people on welfare and food stamps,” there are MORE people there and members of my own extended family are among them. In fact, my Mother-in-Law just had to file emergency bankruptcy. She is considering filing criminal charges against the individuals who drove her to that state: one of the ‘wealthier’ families in the county.

            Why would anyone prefer the eight years of the past administration? I’ll tell you why–the economy was growing in truth and the PEOPLE were seeing the results rather than the wealthy. It’s the people with significant earnings that need to be taxed, not the ones who can only barely survive on their income. Lowering corporate taxes to “encourage spending” didn’t work and doesn’t work–they bank their savings and keep sending jobs overseas. And the current administration’s efforts to FORCE corporations to bring production back isn’t going to change it–all he’ll end up doing is forcing companies to move their headquarters overseas as well.

            His policies, almost from the outset, have caused the current trade war and could well result in not just a “recession” but a full Depression similar to the one in 1929. Removing regulations designed to protect the people will end up causing corporate catastrophe. You should read up on the causes of the Great Depression. Our best economic period came when our tax rates were at their highest across the board, with the wealthy being taxed 50% with few, if any, loopholes and exemptions. To be blunt: Trickle-down economics will never work and HAS never worked.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Jobs have been added in record numbers. People did fall off the rolls under Obama’s strangling of our economy. Labor participation rate is back on the way up. Let go of the ideas that were killing the country no matter how stupid it forces you to accept that you have been. #walkaway

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Here’s what’s going to happen: In or very shortly after 2020, our economy is going to tank, no matter WHO is in office. If it is Trump, he will try to push the blame on Obama or the Democrats in general; if it is another Republican, the blame will go to Democrats; if it is a Democrat, the individual will be blamed, followed by the party. EVERY gain you say has been made by the current administration will be destroyed and yet more jobs will be sent overseas simply because the American corporations can no longer afford American labor. Even the banks will suffer, with those under the most stress right now probably forced into bankruptcy or total closure. Jobs will be nonexistent for almost any kind of factory work and what jobs come available will either be heavy manual labor, service industries or corporate clerical work requiring college degrees (which are unaffordable and pretty much put grads in lifetime debt to pay off their education.)

            This will leave us wide open for a third-party takeover that will likely bankrupt the country and force a complete re-writing of our government, very possibly taking way many of the freedoms we enjoy.

            The pendulum between Democrat and Republican parties has been swinging wider with each new swing between party administrations to the point the structure is about to fall over simply due to momentum. When that happens, our political structure will have to be completely revamped and will very likely be strongly influenced by foreign nations.

            I don’t want to see this result but anybody that’s been paying attention to politics over the last 60 years with an unbiased eye will see that it is almost inevitable.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @Scoutdude:

        “Fact is Nissan buyers are at the Nissan store because they can’t get the credit/afford the other cars.”

        Great stereotyping. I visit the Nissan store because I’m interested in the Kicks, despite my 800 credit rating. Same with the Kia and Hyundai stores.

  • avatar
    Deontologist

    Nice typos.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    I read a similar article at Forbes, and Ford got several of the top satisfaction ratings.

    But in this ratings game it is all about the Benjamins, the sales, the profit, the margin, etc.

    My conclusion is that whichever automaker pays a these ratings agencies the biggest bucks is going to get the highest ratings.

    Isn’t it the same with auto-journalists who rate vehicles based on how well the automaker coddles them? If an automaker provides an auto-journalist with a car, any freebie car, that writer isn’t going to rip that freebie to shreds, no matter how much a real-world buyer will regret buying that vehicle (with only 84 more payments to go)?

  • avatar
    Morea

    “With premium brand average sitting at 835, only Cadillac (852), Lexus (848), Alfa Romeo (846), Jaguar (843), Acura (832), and Infiniti (828) fell below the mean.”

    With premium brand average sitting at 835, only Acura (832), and Infiniti (828) fell below the mean.

    Fixed it for you.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Who pays attention to what J.D. Power says?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    There’s not a single SUV even ranked in any of the categories other than full-size. Why don’t we just put the Honda HRV into the full-size car category and complete the disaster this ranking system is. Who pays for this group to even exist, how does it not take into account the vehicles that are god awful penalty boxes to drive like the Maxima.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “how does it not take into account the vehicles that are god awful penalty boxes to drive like the Maxima.”

      How would it do that? I’m pretty sure this is just based on answers to ownership surveys. If people buying the Maxima rate it highly I don’t see what could be done.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I don’t like the Maxima’s styling, but everything I’ve read about it (including a couple of pieces on this site) indicates it’s a pretty good drive. How are you concluding that it’s a penalty box?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        My 4 day rental is what I base it off of, the CVT whine and shuffle is as bad as a friends Dodge Caliber was several years back. It’s frustrating driving on anything other than perfectly flat long stretches of road. I was thoroughly underwhelmed and wish I had gotten the Fusion Hybrid over it. It’s not as bad as the Malibu I had was, still a mile better than that POS, but highly rated? No, I would take an 03 w-body Impala with the 3400 over the Maxima given the opportunity.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Ah…I was wondering if you’d confused this with another Nissan, as I’ve heard the Maxima isn’t a bad driver at all.

          YMMV, I guess!

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            It was rather frustrating to say the least, I wasn’t impressed but the rest of the car was fine at what it did. Not a bad car but imo ruined by the trans. I had heard they had gotten better but it wasn’t to the level I expected or would be willing to drive on the daily.

  • avatar
    ajla

    JD Power really needs to figure out a way to include Tesla in their reporting.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Tesla is not a main-stream vehicle.

      It takes someone with tons of cash, paying more than $7500 in income taxes, and a dedication to cutting-edge EV ideology to follow that reporting.

      And that ain’t Joe Sixpack and Sally Homemaker who live from paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet even in this booming economy.

      Add to that the costs of insuring a Tesla for Full Coverage (if financed) that’ll water your eyes unless you’re wealthy, and it is easy to see why JD Power steers a wide path around Tesla and remains focused on the bread-and-butter vehicles that make up almost 99% of the annual SAAR.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        An Audi A7 or Porsche Cayenne aren’t mainstream vehicles either.

        I don’t think JD Power is only reporting on the vehicles for “Joe SixPack”.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Audi A7 and Porsche Cayenne are luxury/social status vehicles and a lot more mainstream that BEVs, PHEVs and AltFuel vehicles.

          It’s true that JD Power does not report on vehicles only for Joe Sixpack, but like any buyer with limited financial means, people tend to gather as much info as they can before committing to buying a new vehicle, and generally only the vehicles within their range of affordability.

          People with money just write a check for any vehicle du jour that suits their fancy. I know several retirees who own more than three vehicles, for a household of TWO!

          I suppose JD Power could add EVs as a an afterthought. An addendum to their general vehicle findings.

          Or maybe the EV manufacturers did not want to play money game that earns them a rating from JD Power, in that case there is no financial incentive for JD Power to waste any time and resources collecting satisfaction data from EV owners.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            From USA Today:

            “Tesla was not included in the study because, J.D. Power said, the company does not provide permission for the company to contact its customers, which is required in certain states. Those states account for 70% of Tesla sales, and J.D. Power says that ratio currently prevents it from achieving a representative sample of Tesla owners.”

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Tesla is outselling Cadillac – they’re certainly mainstream.

      • 0 avatar
        Mnemic

        I pay $20,000/yr in income taxes and I’d rather hear about the maxima than any Tesla. I’ve owned 2 older maximas, a 99 SE and an 03 SE. Its a shame what they did to that car, it should be that skyline that was all over the car blogs last week instead.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          ” Its a shame what they did to that car”

          We had a pre-1993 Maxima 4dr with a Stick Shift I bought from a GI going overseas who parked it on the Airbase Lemon Lot. Dirt cheap too.

          That thing was a blast to drive, but we got rid of it because my teenage daughter did not like driving a stick and four doors was not sporty-looking enough for her and her girlfriends when talking to the boys at school and the local drive-ins.

          We bought her a new ’96 Saturn when she graduated HS and sold the Maxima to an illegal alien couple passing through our area on their way to a wealthier Blue State.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            highdesertcat,

            I think you forgot to include your point. Are you agreeing or disagreeing with Mnemic? (Hint: His point did not involve politics. Or your level of financial genius.)

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            ToolGuy,

            ” Its a shame what they did to that car”

            point was, the car was lot of fun to drive in the past, but has devolved into what it is these days, so I agreed with Mnemic.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          It’s a shame what has been done to Nissan overall.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I would generally agree about adding Tesla, however I don’t see JD Power is a very relevant measure of anything, kind of like how most car magazines seem to be comprised of writers working their 9-5 and not actual car enthusiasts.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “I don’t see JD Power is a very relevant measure of anything”

        I agree. JD Power is just ONE source for a subjective write-up.

        The proof is always in the pudding through the touchy-feely approach of hands-on shopping.

    • 0 avatar
      Glenn Mercer

      I have actually spoken to a jd power person about this. Assuming he was telling the truth, he said that Tesla refused to participate. That is, to allow JDP to mail or email verified owners the survey forms. And JDP cannot get around this problem by using DMV records, which are protected. Again, this may not be correct, but it is what he told me.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Glenn – interesting, thanks. That actually makes sense, as JDP would have no incentive to *not* add another manufacturer to their list of clients.

        General comment: I am seeing two types of commentators these days.

        One has an idea or an opinion or a question, and then when someone weighs in who might actually have an informed perspective or some first-hand knowledge or a differing opinion, this person adjusts their thinking or does some more research or is open to some give and take.

        The second type of commentator has their opinion, states their opinion, ignores any evidence offered to the contrary, and barrels on through life with their same opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “Tesla refused to participate.”

        I had heard the same but could not substantiate it until I read your comment.

        Hence, that’s why I wrote what I did in my above comment about manufacturers not wanting to play the money game with JD Power.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Glenn Mercer: While potentially true it seems a little unlikely, considering the supposed high satisfaction of Tesla products by their owners. You’d think Tesla would WANT JDPower to discover that.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The ‘study’ is clearly biased, considering the midsize truck segment which puts the Ford Ranger up top, despite the fact that it has only barely been on the market for 6 months (if that long, considering some markets.) The Ranger is ‘most popular’ more because of an 8-year pent-up demand for the model than any ongoing popularity.

    This isn’t to say that the Ranger won’t keep that position but using the initial surge of sales on a new model as an average representation of model popularity is specious in the least.

    I also noticed that several automotive classes were bypassed, possibly because they wanted to avoid naming a specific brand and model.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Vulpine,

      It’s not a popularity contest and it’s not based on sales volumes. JD Power sends a survey to owners of new vehicles to get their impressions of that vehicle after 90 days of ownership.

      The APEAL survey (Performance, Execution and Layout) asks if you like certain features/aspects of your new vehicle. The separate IQS (Initial Quality Study) asks about problems experienced at 90 days of ownership. The Vehicle Dependability Study surveys owners after 3 years of ownership.

      Now, to your point (sort of), if I have been waiting to buy a Ranger and am one of the first customers for a Ranger, I may be more likely than average to rate that vehicle high at the 90 day mark.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @ToolGuy: “It’s not a popularity contest and it’s not based on sales volumes.”

        Read the headline, my friend. Essentially is IS a popularity contest and inherently biased. After all, the only people likely to respond to such polls are either absolute fans or griping about issues. Average owners are unlikely to say either way.


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