Initial Quality in China Sets New Benchmark; Domestics Improve Significantly

Dr. Mei Songlin

China’s domestic brands are improving their initial vehicle quality and are narrowing the gap with international brands, which is reducing the overall problem rate in China to a record low, according to the 2013 China Initial Quality Study (IQS). At the industry level, overall initial quality averages just 119 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2013, which represents the lowest number of problems since the study was introduced in 2000.

The 2013 China IQS, which examines problems experienced by new-vehicle owners within the first two to six months of ownership, evaluates two general types of problems: design-related problems, and defects and malfunctions. Some 21,181 owners of new vehicles purchased between October 2012 and June 2013 in 46 major cities were surveyed for the study. The overall initial quality score for 2013 is determined by calculating PP100, where a lower problem incidence rate indicates higher quality. Continue reading ›

Seat Material Can Negatively Impact Owner Satisfaction

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Mike VanNieuwkuyk

The most commonly reported seat problem identified by new-vehicle buyers or lessees in the U.S. market after the first 90 days of ownership is that their vehicle seat material—fabric or leather— scuffs or soils easily, according to our 2013 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study.

This soil/scuff problem averages 2.3 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), which is nearly twice the problem count average for the second-most-reported seat problem in our study—related to headrest adjustment (1.2 PP100). Continue reading ›

Redesigned U.S. APEAL Study: Engaging Vehicles Generate Enhanced Loyalty

David Sargent

David Sargent

When a new-vehicle buyer has a delightful experience owning and driving a new car or light truck, there are considerable positive connections and outcomes, such as faster sales at the dealership, higher transaction prices, and increased owner loyalty, according to our redesigned 2013 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

The completely revamped 2013 APEAL Study, which measures how gratifying a new vehicle is for buyers or lessees to own and drive, has been conducted online this year to capture much more detail and provides better diagnostics to understand current key areas of excitement and disappointment among consumers.

The study’s online results further address key concerns to automakers and consumers around some important factors, including:

• new technologies such as infotainment systems

• safety and fuel economy features

• the design of the interior or cockpit

Details from the redone study also help automakers develop and design products that are more likely to appeal to future consumers. Continue reading ›

Defects can be Fixed; Design Problems Remain Obstacles to Initial Quality

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David Sargent

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the problems that buyers and lessees identify in their new vehicles during the first 90 days are related to poor design and technology-related issues rather than manufacturing defects or malfunctions, according to the newly revamped J.D. Power 2013 Initial Quality Study (IQS).

In addition, this year’s IQS determines that defects, which account for a much smaller percentage (34%) of the problems in the redesigned study, are more likely to be fixed at the dealership, whereas design problems may last the lifetime or life cycle of the vehicle, which could be five or more years.

Revamped Initial Quality Study (IQS) Details Owners’ Feedback

Completely recast for 2013, the new IQS captures design-related problems and defects or malfunctions experienced by buyers and lessees in their new vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. The new IQS survey is conducted online rather than by a mail-in questionnaire, which means there is an opportunity to gain more detailed feedback from new-vehicle owners.

A year ago, in the 2012 IQS, we observed that technology challenges were responsible for a majority of initial quality problems. In 2013, issues with technology continue to be the bane of both new-vehicle owners and manufacturers and adversely affect the auto industry’s overall initial quality index in 2013, which averages 113 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). Although the number of problems cannot be compared with past years’ results due to study redesign, some of the same problem areas identified in the previous year’s study remain in the 2013 study’s results. Continue reading ›

Autonomous Driving Attracts Small Interest; Semi-Autonomous Features Prevail

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Mike VanNieuwkuyk

The concept of a self-driving system in a car, or what is termed autonomous driving mode, is no longer considered “outside the box” for vehicle owners. In fact, Google’s pilot self-driving vehicles are legal in Mountain View, CA, near Google headquarters. In addition to California, self-driving cars are also now legal in two other states: Nevada and Florida.

We see that awareness of this new technology is higher than a year ago. In spite of a $3,000 suggested market price, we see that “probable” and “definite” interest in equipping an owner’s next vehicle with this new technology is slightly higher, according to the results from our 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study, than it was last year—21% vs. 20% in 2012.

Both “probable” and “definite” interest in having this emerging technology in an owner’s next vehicle rises to 39% before a market price is introduced.

Interest in some of the other “advanced” emerging technologies takes a back seat to autonomous driving mode when market pricing is introduced. For instance, the percentage of vehicle owners interested in having biometrics (including finger print car locks and stress level monitors for heart rate or blood pressure) in their next vehicle falls from 52% before a price is presented to just 20% after a market price of $350 is shown. Additionally, interest in customizable home screen technology that provides consumers options on information to be displayed on the vehicle’s center stack screen plummets from 72% to just 17% when a $1,250 market price is provided. Continue reading ›

Fuel Efficiency Features are Most Popular New Technologies

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Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Although U.S. drivers may see a drop in the average price of gas at the pump in the next few months vs. the same time frame a year ago*, new-vehicle owners have fuel economy on their minds when it comes to their interest in advanced features and emerging technologies to consider when they purchase their next vehicle, according to our 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study.

Two of 22 features evaluated in the study with the highest percentages of vehicle owners who “definitely would” and “probably would” want a certain feature enhance fuel economy. Higher interest among owners this year may be because these technologies are already available in many non-premium vehicles; they are lower-priced than some technologies and owners are already familiar with them.

Energy Feature: Highest Interest among 22 Emerging Technologies

The fuel economy indicator feature has the highest overall interest before a suggested price is provided (79%) and also after an estimated market price of $50 is introduced (72%). In addition, the percentage of vehicle owners who “definitely would” want the feature in their next vehicle actually edges up from 28% to 30% after a price is revealed. Also, as expected, non-premium brand vehicle owners are even more interested in this feature than are premium vehicle owners. Continue reading ›

J.D. Power Roundtable Provides Future Outlook and Views on Technology

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Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Will the momentum of recovery in the auto industry continue to build was a theme of this year’s J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando,FL. More than 475 auto industry members attended today’s conference, which was held in association with the NADA Convention and Expo that continues through the weekend (Feb. 8 – 11).

In the afternoon session, James Dunn from the Florida-based retail group, JM Family Enterprises, Inc.; Vicki Poponifrom,  American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; and Barry Ratzlaff of Hyundai Motor America, joined a J.D. Power automotive expert in a discussion about changing technology in vehicles. The panel was led by moderator Ed Lapham, executive editor of Automotive News. J.D. Power’s Mike Van Nieuwkuyk, executive director of global vehicle research offered insight on changing technology requirements. Some questions and Van Nieuwkuyk’s observations and insight are summarized in the post below:

Technology in the Car and Consumer Expectations

Q: Evolving platforms—such as PDAs and Tablets, are providing new ways for consumer to communicate, share information and engage with product and service providers. How is the automotive industry keeping pace?

VanNieuwkuyk: Since consumers spend nearly 3 hours per day in their vehicle, they are seeking to make their time in the vehicle more useful and enjoyable. We see that new features that offer consumers greater connectivity, real-time information and flexibility to select who or what and how they want to be connected are being received with great consumer interest. Continue reading ›

Smartphone App Use Challenges Satisfaction with Factory-Installed Navigation Systems

Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Nearly one-half (47%) of owners of new vehicles with factory-installed navigation systems indicate they use a downloaded app on their smartphone to receive driving directions in their vehicle, which is up from 37% in 2011, according to our 2012 U.S. Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study.

We also find that 46% of the 20,704 respondents, who purchased or leased a new 2012 model-year vehicle with a factory-installed system, say they “definitely would not” or “probably would not” buy another factory-installed navigation system if their smartphone navigation could be displayed on a central screen in their vehicle.

Factory-Installed Nav Systems: Better than Previous Systems but Frustrate Owners

Even though new-vehicle owners say their current factory navigation system is better than their previous system, they are frustrated by complex menu systems and voice control commands, and they indicate having difficulty inputting destinations. For these reasons, among others, this year’s industry average satisfaction with factory-installed navigation systems declines to 681 points (on a 1,000-point scale)—a drop of 13 points from 694 in 2011. Continue reading ›

Western Auto Conference Industry Panelists Discusses Self-Driving Cars

 Today’s post follows up our earlier post, Western Auto Conference Panel Talks about Mobility—Now and in the Future and includes excerpts from a panel of auto industry executives about alternative vehicles and car sharing with perspectives on smarter, semi-self-driving vehicles and a few comments about the future of mobility and selling electric vehicles. Joe White, senior editor at The Wall Street Journal, led this discussion with auto executives and a California dealer principal at the NADA/J.D. Power Western Automotive Conference. Continue reading ›

Western Auto Conference Panel Talks about Mobility—Now and in the Future

Auto industry panelists discuss mobility with Joe White, senior editor, The Wall Street Journal (right) at the NADA/J.D. Power Western Automotive conference.

Auto industry panelists discuss mobility with Joe White, senior editor, The Wall Street Journal (right) at the NADA/J.D. Power Western Automotive conference.

Mobility is a term that has been gaining attention in the auto industry. The current focus is on the viability of alternative vehicles—especially electric vehicles (EVs)—and the future focus explores mobility technology including smarter, semi-self-driving vehicles. Joe White, senior editor at The all Street Journal, led a panel discussion with auto executives and a California dealer principal at the NADA/J.D. Power Western Automotive Conference with an objective to look at mobility and to separate reality from fantasy.

Moderator: Joe White, senior editor, The Wall Street Journal

Panel members:

Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc.

Mark Del Rosso, COO, Audi of America Inc.

John Mendel, Executive Vice President, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Peter Hoffman, Dealer Principal, Sierra Autocars, Inc.*

*Sierra Autocars, Inc. is s a family-owned dealer group based in California’s San Gabriel Valley, and includes seven stores and 10 franchises: Acura, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Honda, Jeep, Mazda, Ram and Subaru.

Panelists’ comments on the need to have a balanced portfolio that includes fuel-efficient vehicles, including those with alternative powertrains, and their ideas about consumer interest in EVs, alternative powertrains and semi-self-driving cars are excerpted.

Joe: Let’s start with the here and now. By 2025 the auto industry’s fleets have to average 54.5 mpg—you are not waiting until 2024 to start this process. How are customers receiving the technology and the engineering ideas that you are putting into the marketplace to move toward that goal?

Al: No car manufacturer is going to get to 54.5 mpg without alternative fuel vehicles—whether it’s electric, fuel cell, or whether it’s natural gas. Nissan is heavily involved in the electric vehicle (EV) and that is one of the platforms moving forward that is going to have a big presence in the auto industry. I would say that from an electric perspective for us, our customers love it. The one limit right now is the range. As the technology expands, and you get greater range from the same power packs, I think it will open up a tremendous audience that isn’t there today. Continue reading ›