Shanghai, China – New-vehicle quality from Chinese automakers has improved considerably during the past three years, but owner satisfaction with performance and design has remained flat, according to a new report by J.D. Power and Associates.

Now in its seventh year, the Asia Pacific 2009 China Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study is a customer-reported measure of what gratifies owners regarding their new vehicle’s performance and design during the first two to six months of ownership. The study examines ten vehicle categories: exterior; interior; storage and space; audio/entertainment/navigation; seats; HVAC; driving dynamics; engine/transmission; visibility and safety; and fuel economy.

The Chinese automotive industry has been undergoing considerable and rapid changes recently, as the number of manufacturers and models in the market has grown expansively, and manufacturers have attempted to respond to increasing demand. However, when measuring customer satisfaction with performance and design, the 2009 overall APEAL score averaged 799 on a 1,000-point scale, compared with 800 in 2008, and 797 in 2007. In contrast, according to the company’s Initial Quality Study, new-vehicle initial quality has improved substantially between 2007 and 2009, by 24 problems per 100 vehicles.

“Rapid evolution of the automotive industry in China has led to intensified competition and heightened customer expectations,” said Katy Wang, senior research manager at J.D. Power Asia Pacific. “While manufacturers in China have made substantial quality improvements, they will need to put additional effort into product innovation in order to keep pace with these expectations and increase owner satisfaction.”

The highest-ranked models in 2009, by segment, are:

Compact: Chevrolet Spark

Premium compact: JAC Tojoy

Entry midsize: Nissan Tiida (sold as Versa in North America)

Midsize: Nissan Sylphy

Lower premium midsize: Chevrolet Epica

Upper premium midsize: Buick Regal

Luxury: Audi A6L

SUV: Honda CR-V

MPV: Honda Odyssey

Minivan: Wuling Rongguang

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