The JD Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study is designed to measure new-car appeal - in their words, it "examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive". Owners are asked to rate their cars across 77 criteria, with the scores culminating into a rating out of 1000.
According to the findings APEAL scores have dropped by a single point compared to 2013, with an average of 794. While scores for fuel economy and interior styling and feel were generally good, according to the findings the biggest surprise surrounded the "usefulness of the controls and functions for navigation, voice recognition and other technology applications".
Renee Stephens, vice president of US automotive at JD Power, explains.
"Manufacturers often look to new features and technologies to keep their vehicles fresh and attractive, but designing systems that consumers find intuitive and easy to use has been a challenge," she said.
"Newly launched models surpass carryovers in impressing owners with the look and feel of the vehicle. But as we also see in our 2014 Initial Quality Study, owners are not as comfortable with the functionality of the features. To differentiate new models from the pack, automakers must continue to design systems that are not just attractive, but also intuitive and easy to use."
The findings showed fuel economy was the only category to show an overall improvement (up six points), driven, according to JD Power, by a decline in fuel use prices over the survey period. However, fuel use remains the lowest scoring category, according to Stephens.
"Automakers must find the right balance between owner expectations of fuel economy and areas that affect the driving experience, such as horsepower and transmission performance, which is not an easy task. Customers are not always happy with the trade-off between those characteristics," she said.
In terms of brands, Porsche was named the top achiever for the 10th straight year, while Hyundai was named highest among the non-premium makes - and the South Korean brand also topped the 2014 JD Power Initial Quality Study.
Non-premium brand Dodge took out three segment awards with its Challenger, Charger and Dart models - none of which are sold here - while Porsche took three segment wins with the 911, Boxster and Cayenne.