Westlake Village, California – In a reversal of a steady upward trend from previous years, a new study by J.D. Power and Associates has found that overall new-vehicle “owner delight” has declined slightly in 2008, primarily due to concerns about fuel prices.

The Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study, now in its 13th year, measures owner delight with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles, examining owner evaluations of ten measures encompassing more than 90 vehicle attributes. The overall 2008 APEAL score averages 770 points on a 1,000-point scale, a two per cent decrease since 2007. More than one-half of the overall decline is due to a significant decrease in owner delight with fuel economy.

“Average prices at the fuel pump have increased by 27 per cent in the period between the 2007 and 2008 APEAL studies, creating heightened sensitivity to fuel economy among new-vehicle owners,” said David Sargent, vice-president of automotive research at J.D. Power. “Even though more consumers are now achieving the gas mileage they expect compared with previous years, the increased cost of filling their vehicles still leads to a greater level of dissatisfaction with fuel economy than in the past. Manufacturers that deliver more fuel-efficient vehicles and integrate alternative fuel technology into their designs stand a better chance of delighting their customers and being successful in this rapidly changing marketplace.”

The study found that overall scores for most APEAL performance measures have either stayed the same or declined since 2007; only performance in the area of audio, entertainment and navigation have improved slightly. Also, in a departure from previous years, models that have been mildly refreshed achieve higher APEAL scores, on average, than all-new or redesigned models.

Honda captured three model segment awards, more than any other vehicle nameplate this year, for the Fit (second consecutive year), Odyssey (fourth consecutive year) and Ridgeline (fourth consecutive year). Porsche received awards for the Cayenne and Cayman (third consecutive year); Toyota for the FJ Cruiser and Sequoia; and Volkswagen for the GTI/R32 (second consecutive year) and Passat. Also receiving awards were the BMW 5 Series, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Avalanche, Dodge Magnum, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Mini Cooper. Porsche was the highest-ranking nameplate for a fourth consecutive year. Buick posted the largest improvement, followed by Chrysler, Ford, Mercury and Dodge, respectively. The majority of the most-improved models were also from domestic manufacturers, including the redesigned Ford Focus, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chevrolet Malibu.

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