For the first time since 1997, domestic auto brands, collectively, have surpassed import brands as a whole in vehicle appeal, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.
Domestic Brands Build on 4-year Trend
Domestic brands have been improving steadily in vehicle appeal during the past four years, with the greatest improvement occurring between 2008 and 2010. In 2010, the APEAL score for US domestic brands averages 787 on a 1,000-point scale; 13 points higher than the score for import brands (automakers headquartered in Europe or Asia Pacific). By comparison, in 2009, import brands outpaced domestic brands by five points.
Among premium models, import nameplates continue to retain a notable edge, but mass-market models from domestic brands outperform those from import brands.
Ford, GMC Drive Improvement
Improvement in 2010 is driven primarily by high-performing models from Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation (GMC), including several models that are all-new or have undergone major redesigns. Ford captures five segment-level awards, more than any other vehicle brand in 2010: for the Expedition, Explorer Sport Trac, Flex, Fusion and Taurus. The GMC Terrain also earned a segment-level award.
New Domestic Models Outperform New Imports
New models introduced by import brands between 2008 and 2010 have similar APEAL scores as models retired by these import automakers during the same period (averaging 784 vs.781, respectively). In contrast, newly introduced domestic models have strongly outperformed the models retired by domestic brands (803 compared to 758, on average).
Imports Dominate Top 10
Despite overall improvements by domestic nameplates, a look at the top 10 nameplates by APEAL score shows that high-end imports capture the first eight spots. Porsche leads all nameplates with an APEAL score of 877, followed by Jaguar with 854. Other premium import nameplates in the top eight include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus. US nameplates Lincoln (820) and Cadillac (818) occupy the ninth and 10th spots, respectively.
Ford Improves Rep
Ford substantially improved its corporate reputation among US consumers in 2009, according to the findings of the 2009 Harris Interactive RQ Study. Ford’s RQ score increased by 11.28 points from 2008, the largest single-year improvement in the past nine years. Ford’s score of 69.77 places it statistically in the category of companies with a “good” reputation, a significant accomplishment given its starting point and the state of the automotive industry.