European brands have dominated the latest JD Power study, which ranks US owners' satisfaction with and enjoyment of their new vehicles.
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Porsche topped the 2012 US Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study for the eighth consecutive year with a rating of 887 points out of 1000, leading second-ranked Jaguar (877) and BMW in third (859). Fellow Germans Audi (848) and Mercedes-Benz (844) filled out the top five before the first non-European brand, Lexus, tied with Land Rover in sixth place with a rating of 833 points.

JD Power’s APEAL study measures how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 specific vehicle attributes relating to eight categories: performance and design; engine/transmission; ride, handling and braking; comfort/convenience; seats; cockpit/instrument panel; heating, ventilation and cooling; sound system; and styling/exterior.

The APEAL study complements JD Power’s Initial Quality Study, which ranks manufacturers based on problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), and was this year topped by Lexus, Jaguar and Porsche.

Other brands to peak above the industry average in the 2012 APEAL study included Infiniti (823), Mini (815), Volkswagen (812), Volvo (807), Ford (791) and Chrysler (789).

Suzuki claimed the unenviable wooden spoon, with an APEAL rating of 745 points, trailing Smart (752), Mitsubishi (752) and Subaru (761). The area below the industry average line was predominantly occupied by Japanese and Korean manufacturers, including Kia (786), Hyundai (784), Toyota (780), Honda (771), Mazda (770) and Nissan (769).

Dodge, Jaguar and Ram showed the largest improvement compared with last year’s study, gaining 21, 20 and 19 points respectively.

Chevrolet scored the highest number of individual segment wins, with the Sonic (Barina in Australia), Volt and Avalanche all topping their classes.

Seven brands each received two awards: Audi, Dodge, Ford, Kia, Mini, Nissan and Porsche.

The study also revealed 27 per cent of new-car buyers in the US are downsizing (purchasing a vehicle smaller than their previous one), while 60 per cent bought vehicles in the same segment and just 13 per cent upsized.

The APEAL study is based on the responses of more than 74,000 purchasers and lessees of 2012 model year vehicles surveyed between February and May after the first 90 days of ownership.

2012 APEAL study top three cars per segment (highest ranked listed first):

  • Subcompact: Chevrolet Sonic (Barina), Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta
  • Compact: Chevrolet Volt, Volkswagen Golf, Honda CR-Z
  • Compact sports: Mini Coupe/Roadster, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Mini Cooper
  • Compact premium sports: Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe/Convertible
  • Midsize: Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat (tie), Suzuki Kizashi
  • Midsize sports: Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang
  • Midsize premium: Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan/wagon
  • Large: Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Nissan Maxima
  • Large premium: Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Porsche Panamera
  • Entry premium: BMW 3-Series, BMW 1-Series, Audi A4/A5
  • Premium sports: Porsche 911, BMW 6-Series

2012 APEAL study top three trucks/SUVs per segment (highest ranked listed first):

  • Compact SUV: Mini Countryman, Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage
  • Compact MPV: Kia Soul, Toyota Prius V
  • Midsize SUV: Ford Flex, Honda Crosstour, Dodge Durango
  • Large SUV: Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia
  • Entry premium SUV: Range Rover Evoque, BMW X3, Audi Q5
  • Midsize premium SUV: Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class (tie)
  • Large premium SUV: Infiniti QX56, Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover Sport
  • Midsize pick-up: Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline
  • Large pick-up: Chevrolet Avalanche, Ford F-150 LD, Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty
  • Minivan: Nissan Quest, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna