Automakers engaged in a race to keep adding the latest in gadgetry to their cars might want to take notice of the findings from J.D. Power's latest annual APEAL study.
The survey (for Automotive Performance Execution and Layout) asked 86,000 owners of recently bought 2014 models what they liked most about their new vehicles. Among all-new and redesigned models, good fuel economy and the feel and styling of the interior scored the highest versus the previous model of the same nameplate.
However, new functions and controls for navigation, voice recognition, cell phone connections and other technology showed a much smaller advantage for the redesigned models.
This tracks closely with the Power Initial Quality study earlier this year where new owners are asked about problems with their vehicles. The leading complaint was about trouble using the technology built into the new car.
"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," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power.
The competition among brands for the highest satisfaction showed once again that drivers really love their Porsches. For the 10th consecutive year, the Porsche brand topped the APEAL rankings. Among non-luxury brands, Hyundai finished the highest. It held the same position in this year's Initial Quality study, the first time a mainstream brand has scored this kind of double win.
Detroit's two luxury brands, Lincoln and Cadillac, both scored among the top 10 of all brands. Ford, Chevrolet, Buick, Dodge and Chrysler all ranked below average, but so did Honda and Toyota. Jeep was next to last among the 32 brands.
On the other hand, Dodge tied with Porsche for the most model winners in individual segments (for Dart, Challenger and Charger). Porsche's winners include Boxster, Cayenne and the 911 ( pictured above.) Some of these segment awards showed the attraction of eye-catching styling and sporty feel -- such as the Dodge Dart and the Volkswagen GTI.
The Ford F-series pickups -- the best-selling vehicle in America -- won for its F-150 and its heavy duty F-250 and F-350 trucks.