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J.D. Power car study finds downsizers happy; Chevrolet speeds up

July 25, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • The Chevrolet Sonic was the top subcompact car in the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates APEAL Study of car buyer impressions and experiences.
The Chevrolet Sonic was the top subcompact car in the 2012 J.D. Power and… (General Motors Co. )

Car buyers are trading down to smaller vehicles and are finding that they are just as satisfied as they had been with larger autos, according to a study by market research firm J.D. Power and Associates.

In its 2012 APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) Study, J.D. Power found that 27% of new-vehicle buyers during a four-month period earlier this year replaced an existing vehicle with a smaller new auto. Only 13% went in the opposite direction during that time period.

“New-vehicle buyers who downsize are not making the sacrifice that they once were,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates.  “Automakers are heavily focused on providing the U.S. market with appealing smaller models, and buyers may be surprised at just how good some of them are.”

In some cases, buyers found that the smaller vehicles were actually more nicely appointed and had better features than the autos they replaced, he said.

The study examined car purchasing patterns and the impressions consumers had of the vehicles they purchased and the brands that make the autos.

Porsche, Jaguar and BMW had the highest brand rankings.  Mitsubishi, Smart and Suzuki had the lowest.

Of the bigger mass-market brands, Volkswagen, the Ram truck division of Chrysler and Ford had the highest rankings. Despite coming out first in three of the 21 model categories that J.S. Power tracked, Chevrolet’s overall score was below average, as were other big automakers including Honda and Toyota.

As for models, the Chevrolet Sonic was the highest ranked subcompact and Chevy's Volt was the highest ranked compact car. The Volt was the only electric or plug-in hybrid car to win a segment.  Chevrolet’s Avalanche had the highest marks among large pickup trucks.

The Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat tied for top family sedan.  The Dodge Charger won in the large car category.  

The Ford Flex and Ford Expedition took the honors in the mid and large sport-utility vehicle segments. The Nissan Quest was the top minivan.

In the luxury and sports car segments, the BMW 3 series was the highest rated entry premium car while Audi’s A6 and A8 won in the mid-size and large premium car segments.  The Porsche 911 was the top rated sports car.

The APEAL Study looked at how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes. It is based on responses gathered between February and May 2012 from more than 74,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2012 model-year cars and light trucks who were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership.

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