2018 New Car Appeal Shows Biggest Improvement in History

Joseph Dobrian | Jul 25, 2018
Auto enthusiasts rejoice! According to the latest edition of the J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study,SM car owners’ satisfaction with the performance and design of their new vehicles is at its highest level ever. In fact, new car appeal in 2018 experiences the greatest year-over-year increase in the history of the APEAL Study.

In this year’s study, the industry average APEAL score increases to 820 points (on a 1,000-point scale) from 810 in 2017, with significantly higher scores in all 10 of the study’s evaluation categories. Of the 31 rank-eligible brands included in the study, 23 gain in customer satisfaction from 2017.

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2018 U.S. APEAL Study

“The automotive industry is performing exceptionally well, with manufacturers making record-breaking improvements year over year,” said Dave Sargent, Vice President, Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “It’s a great time to buy a new car or truck. There are a lot of high-quality, appealing vehicles in every segment of the market and shoppers don’t have to spend a fortune to get one.”

The APEAL Study measures owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement 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.

Key Findings

Following are some key findings of the 2018 study:

  • Mass-market brands continue to close in on luxury segment: The average APEAL score for the mass-market segment is 814, a 10-point improvement from 2017, while the luxury segment improves 6 points, to 851. Much of the improvement in the mass-market section is due to added features. The gap between the two segments narrows to an all-time low of 37 points.
  • All categories improve in 2018: The APEAL Study examines 10 vehicle categories, all of which consumers are finding more satisfying vs. 2017: driving dynamics (+12 points); visibility and safety (+11); engine/transmission (+10); audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (+10); seats (+10); heating, ventilation and air conditioning (+10); exterior (+9); interior (+9); storage and space (+9); and fuel economy (+4).
  • Lincoln Navigator posts highest score of any model: The Lincoln Navigator has the highest overall APEAL score (915) of any model this year. This is also the highest level recorded in this generation of the study (2013-2018). The U.S. APEAL Study, which was first published in 1996, is currently in its third generation.

Genesis Ranks Highest in Overall Appeal; Chevrolet, GMC Pace Mass-Market Brands

The Genesis brand ranks highest in overall APEAL for the first time, with a score of 884. Porsche ranks second overall (883), followed by BMW (863), Lincoln (861), and Mercedes-Benz (858).

In the mass-market segment, Chevrolet and GMC rank highest, tied at 826—the first time either brand has ranked highest. Ram ranks third (825), followed by Dodge and Ford (824 each).

Mitsubishi is the most improved brand, increasing 33 points from 2017. Other brands showing substantial improvements are Dodge (+29), Jeep (+26), GMC (+18), and Chevrolet (+16).

Ford Motor Company Earns the Most Segment-Level APEAL Awards

Ford Motor Co.’s various brands win four segment-level awards, while General Motors, Volkswagen AG, and BMW AG models each win three awards. Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. take two each; Nissan Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles each win one:


The Audi A3, BMW X1, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford F-150, Lincoln Continental, Honda Ridgeline, and Porsche Cayenne all repeat as award winners from 2017.

Consumer Tips

Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following tips:

  • If you’re shopping for a new vehicle, find out how each model you’re considering has changed from the previous year in terms of features and technology. Sometimes the improvement is considerable. If a certain brand or model has experienced a recent dramatic increase in satisfaction ratings, it may be due to the maker having significantly “upped its game” over the previous year.
  • Check J.D. Power ratings to see what other buyers most like and dislike about each model you’re considering.
  • Give special consideration to brands and models that have consistently high satisfaction ratings over several years—and examine various models from brands that win multiple awards.

About the Study

The APEAL Study, now in its 23rd year, is based on responses gathered from November 2017 through February 2018 from nearly 68,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2018 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study complements the J.D. Power Initial Quality StudySM and helps manufacturers to design and develop more appealing vehicles. It also guides consumers in their purchase decisions.

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