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J.D. Power reports record decrease in new vehicle customer satisfaction

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Market Trends
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New vehicle owners experienced a consecutive year-over-year decline in customer satisfaction for the first time in the 28-year history of a J.D. Power report.

Its Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, released this month, found overall satisfaction to be 845 on a 1,000-point scale, representing a two-point decrease from last year. It’s also three points lower than it was in 2021.

“The decline in consecutive years might look small but it’s an indicator that larger issues may lie under the surface,” said Frank Hanley, J.D. Power’s senior director of auto benchmarking. “Despite the technology and design innovations that manufacturers put into new vehicles, owners are lukewarm about them.”

Of the 10 factors the study is based on, nine have declined year-over-year with fuel economy being the only improvement. Among the other categories, customers were most dissatisfied with new vehicles’ exterior, which dropped to 888 from last year’s 894 points.

“Satisfaction with exterior styling on new models in 2023 is particularly unremarkable, scoring only 3 points above carryover models,” the report said.

Other factors playing into customer satisfaction included the vehicle’s interior, powertrain, driving feel, comfort, infotainment system, and safety. The report also considered how drivers felt walking up to, and getting in and out of, the vehicle as well as setting up and starting it.

According to the survey, built-in infotainment systems are “a prime example of a technology not resonating with today’s buyers.”

It found that 56% of owners prefer using their vehicle’s built-in system to play audio, down from 70% in 2020. The most common uses for built-in systems were to make phone calls (45%), voice recognition (37%), and navigation (43%).

“While innovations like charging pads, vehicle apps and advanced audio features should enhance an owner’s experience, this is not the case when problems are experienced,” Hanley said. “This downward trajectory of satisfaction should be a warning sign to manufacturers that they need to better understand what owners really want in their new vehicles.”

The APEAL study is meant to measure a person’s attachment to their new vehicle as well as their excitement by asking them to consider a number of factors, ranging from how it feels to slide into the driver’s seat to how it feels hitting the gas.

Among its findings were that for the second consecutive year, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) outperformed internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in fuel economy, even when declining gas prices were taken into consideration.

The APEAL index score for ICE vehicles was tied with plug-in hybrids at 843 points, with BEVs trailing behind at 840 points.

Given its “high weight in the BEV segment,” Tesla was studied separately and scored 878 points, making it one of the industry’s highest-performing brands although this year’s score was nine points lower than it was last year.

Jaguar took the highest spot with 887 points in the premium category followed by Land Rover and Porsche (both received 883 points), BMW (878 points) and Genesis (877 points).

The mass market category was led by Dodge (887 points) followed by Ram (873 points), GMC (858 points), Mini (856 points), and Kia (851 points).


Main image: iStock/Tramino

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