J.D. Power APEAL Study Reveals What Drives Customer Satisfaction

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Regardless of which make or model a car shopper is interested in, quality in manufacturing remains the qualifier. A well-laid-out interior, performance that meets or exceeds expectations, and the standards by which a vehicle is assembled are all either conscious or subconscious benchmarks that a vehicle must pass.

The 2020 J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution, And Layout (APEAL) Study discovers which models customers are most satisfied with. For 2020, the U.S. APEAL study took findings into consideration from 87,282 car owners of current model-year vehicles. They were asked 37 questions related to their level of excitement and emotional attachment after the first 90 days they owned the vehicle.

This year, the rankings were closer than they’ve ever been between brands and models. Of the possible 1,000-point score, luxury brands averaged 861 points while mass-market models achieved an average of 838 points. Lincoln, Cadillac, and BMW top the luxury brands while Dodge, Ram, and GMC lead the mass market. 

How the J.D. Power APEAL Study Applies

The data compiled in the U.S. APEAL study in 2020 may at first seem like a measuring stick for how carmakers are doing. However, there are takeaways for dealers that can help them in their stores. 

APEAL studyQuality Has Been Enhanced

Gone are the days when Japanese and Korean-built cars are considered lower than domestic brands. Hyundai and Kia together received five model awards for the Genesis G70, Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Veloster, Kia Stinger, and Kia Telluride. But the difference is paltry – just 28 points separate Dodge and Kia, and Hyundai is only two points further back.

Because quality is on par for most brands, it does not behoove salespeople to speak negatively of other carmakers. The focus should remain on the model you’re showing, corporate responsibility, and the relationship with the seller and dealer. 

Shoppers are Buying the Right Vehicle

When APEAL ratings are so high, it demonstrates that salespeople are doing an excellent job of matching shoppers with the correct model and trim level. Satisfaction with the powertrain, driving feel, interior layout and quality, and fuel usage are areas of the study that customers are asked about, and rising satisfaction indicates that their salesperson has found the right fit for their needs. 

Factors to Focus on During Walkaround

The other area that the J.D. Power APEAL study is useful for dealers is to train salespeople in a comprehensive and engaging walkaround. The study is based on attributes in 10 areas: 

  • Walking up to your vehicle
  • Setting up and starting your vehicle
  • Getting in and out of the vehicle
  • Your vehicle’s interior
  • Your vehicle’s powertrain
  • Your vehicle’s driving feel
  • Your vehicle keeping you safe
  • Using the infotainment system
  • Your vehicle’s driving comfort
  • Fuel usage

These ten criteria combine to make an excellent, all-encompassing checklist for a new car walkaround. Whether in the showroom or on the lot, a salesperson can perform an effective vehicle demonstration by following these ten criteria as a process. 

Takeaways from the Study

The ratings prove that carmakers are on a level playing field in terms of initial quality and car buyer satisfaction, placing the focus on what the manufacturer is doing well rather than what others are doing poorly. Finding the right model and trim for a car buyer’s needs helps drive their satisfaction. And studies like this help professionals better understand what experiences a customer is looking for in their new car so they can adapt their strategy to make more sales.


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

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