Safety-related technology is one of the major factors making owners of new cars happier than ever with their purchases, a new report from J.D. Power has found.
“Not only are models increasingly offering systems that improve safety and visibility, but owners are also using them on a regular basis,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. “This can go a long way toward generating positive feelings about their vehicle overall.”
This is the 20th year that J.D. Power has released its U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. It is an industry benchmark for how gratifying to own and drive new vehicles are. Participants evaluate new car purchases based on 77 factors that are then combined into a total index score measured on a 1,000-point scale.
This year, the overall score for vehicles that offered features such as blind-spot warning systems was a full 38 points higher than for vehicles without.
Automakers started incorporated high-tech features in vehicles some time ago, of course, but Stephens noted that more recent upgrades prioritize usability. “Unlike other technologies, such as voice recognition, that can be challenging to operate, most safety features provide information in a more intuitive way, giving owners a greater sense of security,” she explained.
Porsche was the top-ranked brand in 2015, taking that honor for the 11th consecutive year. Its score of 874 points was followed by Jaguar’s (855), BMW’s (854), Mercedes-Benz’s (853) and Audi’s (852).
These so-called premium brands have historically performed far better than non-premium brands. But this year’s study found that the gap between those categories has narrowed by 16% in the last decade. And the average index score for premium brands has gone up by only one point since 2014, whereas the average score for non-premium brands has risen by five points.
The highest-ranked non-premium brand in 2015 was Mini, earning a score of 825.
There were a few other surprises, as well. Despite automatic transmissions outnumbering manual ones approximately 10 to 1 in the market, several sport vehicles earned high marks for high-performance manual transmissions. It’s also worth noting that millennials are gaining access to new cars more often than in recent years (though often by leasing, not buying), which might affect preferences for new cars.
The overall APEAL score for the most recent model year, 798, represents a 4-point increase since last year.