Car owner satisfaction declined for the second year in a row, according to the J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.
It is the first time in nearly three decades that the annual study has displayed two consecutive years of decline. Between 2022 and 2023, car owner satisfaction shed two points after falling one point in 2021. While the movement is slight given the APEAL study’s 1,000-point scale, Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at J.D. Power, believes that a trend is beginning to form. “The decline in consecutive years might look small, but it’s an indicator that larger issues may lie under the surface,” he writes. “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.”
Mass market brands saw a faster deterioration in car owner satisfaction scores than premium and luxury manufacturers, although both segments were affected by the trend. Electric vehicles saw improvements from the previous year, with consumers rating their battery-powered models two points higher than in 2022. However, while the gap has shortened, EVs remain three points behind petrol vehicles in perceived quality. Though relatively new to the study, Tesla saw its scores slip nine points from last year, although its products retain an edge over others in the market. Out of all those included in J.D. Power’s research, the four highest-rated brands were Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche and BMW.
The study comes amidst a tidal wave of innovation in the automotive space. It is possible that electric vehicle incentives, high-tech design trends and an influx of wealthy customers have encouraged manufacturers to speed up the development process and launch visually impressive but structurally questionable products. While the current market may favor these tactics, it is unlikely to be sustainable long term. If brands are unable to prevent more significant declines in car owner satisfaction, they may lose out to companies that prioritize quality.