Power Seats with Manual Lumbar Support Hampers Seat Satisfaction

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Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Although a small percentage (less than 5%) of new vehicles are equipped with power seats that have manually adjustable lumbar support, new-vehicle owners with those seats experience more problems with the lumbar support adjustment than do owners of vehicles equipped with all-power seat controls, according to our 2013 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study.

Problem incidence of power seats with a manual lumbar support averages 1.9 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) vs. just 0.4 PP100 for owners with all-power seat controls. Satisfaction among owners of vehicles equipped with power seats that have manual lumbar adjustments also is slightly lower on average—8.2 (on a 10-point scale)—compared with 8.4 for owners of fully powered seats.

Even those new-vehicle owners with all manual seat controls experience a lower average number of lumbar adjustment problems (1.1 PP100) compared with owners with power seats and manually adjustable lumbar support. However, overall satisfaction for owners with seats with all-manual seat controls is lowest (7.9 on a 10-point scale). 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 ›

GM’s JV Brands Set March and First-Quarter Sales Records in China

GM-China-HQGeneral Motors and its joint venture operations in China set all-time sales records in the largest passenger-vehicle market during March and through the first quarter of 2013, according to the company. March deliveries rose nearly 13% from a year ago to 290,538 unit sales. It was the second-highest monthly sales tally in GM’s history in China. Its first-quarter total sales in China also rose nearly 10% from last year to 816,373 units.

In related news, GM also outsold Volkswagen Group in China for the first time in the past three quarters, thanks to increased demand for Buick vehicles, according to news reports. China’s auto manufacturers group said that VW’s growth surpassed the overall passenger-vehicle market in China during the first quarter but its increase in March was not as strong. Continue reading ›

GM Touts Opening of Major Proving Ground in China

Tim Dunne

General Motors Corp. and several partners just opened what they claim is the largest proving ground in China, built with an investment of RMB 1.6 billion ($253 million). The Guangde Proving Ground in Guangde County, Anhui, located west of Shanghai, features 37 miles of test roads, and some of the industry’s most advanced technologies and processes, according to a GM China official.

Two of the partners, Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), will direct the proving ground’s operation. The proving ground, which features eight test areas including an oval track, vehicle dynamics test area, ride and handling loop, and noise test road, among others, can accommodate up to 140 vehicles for testing simultaneously. In addition, it has 23,000 square meters (247,569 square feet) of auxiliary space for labs, repair facilities and private workshops.

GM was among the earliest and has been the most active investor in R&D development in China. The PATAC facility is among the biggest—if not the absolute largest—foreign automotive R&D center in China where vehicles and vehicle components are designed and developed. Continue reading ›

German Brands Attract China’s New-Vehicle Intenders

Dr. Mei Songlin

More than one-third of consumers in China (35%) who expect to purchase a new vehicle in the next 12 months intend to buy a European model—in particular from a German brand—in comparison with just one-fourth (25%) of consumers who were in the market for a new vehicle a year ago, according to the J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2012 China New-Vehicle Intender StudySM (NVIS).

The study, which examines pre-purchase perceptions and consideration of more than 5,300 new-vehicle intenders in 59 cities of China, also measures familiarity and favorability of automotive brands with new-vehicle intenders in China. This year’s study finds more intenders aspire to own BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi brand models than in the previous year’s study.

Overall this year, German models have the highest consideration rates in seven of the 11 vehicle segments and are more popular, particularly in Tier 1 cities in China, compared with models of other European brands. According to the study, major reasons for considering German models include safety features; quality of workmanship; and durability and low failure rate. Continue reading ›

Autonomous Driving Feature Garners Surprising Interest in J.D. Power Study

Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Although it’s still being developed and tested* and is one of the most expensive emerging technologies, Autonomous Driving—the mode where vehicles drive themselves— garnered a surprising level of interest among the 23 emerging technologies and features evaluated in this year’s 2012 US Emerging Technologies Study, which is based on responses from more than 17,400 vehicle owners.

Before price is revealed, some 37% of vehicle owners are interested in this new technology, which allows an onboard computer in the vehicle to take control of acceleration, braking and steering, without human interaction. When respondents learn that the estimated market price is $3,000, 20% of respondents still say they “definitely would” or “probably would” purchase the self-driving technology in their next vehicle.

Vehicle owners are nearly as likely to select fully autonomous driving, as they are to select separate, semi-autonomous driving technologies, such as Emergency Stop Assist ($800), Traffic Jam Assist ($800) or Speed Limit Assist ($800), according to our study results. Continue reading ›

Internet Search: Key Focus in Replacement Tire Shopping in Japan

Vehicle owners in Japan shopping for replacement tires rely on the Internet for information nearly as much as they depend on recommendations from salespeople in tire stores, according to our 2011 Japan Replacement Tire Customer Satisfaction Index Study.

In fact, the percentage of owners who rely on the Internet when selecting tires has risen by 10 percentage points during the past 3 years to an average 38% in 2011. During the same period, the percentage of owners who rely on salesperson recommendations has declined by 11 points, to 39%. Continue reading ›

Technology and Connectivity are Key Focuses in New Products

Emerging-technology features took center stage during product introductions at most of the press previews at the L.A. Auto Show this past week. Nearly every automaker touted news about featured information and entertainment systems that have been developed or advanced to cater to customers.

• Brands, including Ford and Honda, talked about simpler and enhanced telematics and connectivity. Continue reading ›

Green and Environmentally Friendly are Soft-Pedaled at L.A. Auto Show

Although “green” wasn’t a theme during last week’s press previews for the L.A. Auto Show, marketers and officials from automakers reeled off stats of enhanced fuel economy for many of their new or redesigned models.

Executives from major auto brands, including General Motors’ Chevrolet and Cadillac nameplates, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Mazda and Subaru . . . Continue Reading Green and Environmentally Friendly are Soft-Pedaled at L.A. Auto Show

Five-Year Snapshot: Component Quality Advances and Satisfaction Rises

Andrew Bernhard

J.D. Power recently released its latest series of Component Quality Reports (CQRs), detailing owner-reported evaluations of the quality of their new vehicles and how satisfied they were with their 2011 model- year vehicle component areas after the first 90 days of ownership.

These CQR reports, which are based on analysis of Voice of the Customer data and findings from our annual Initial Quality Study (IQS) and the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, cover six major vehicle component areas: Seats/Seat Belts; Interior; Multimedia Systems; HVAC/Rear Defrost; Brakes/Driving Dynamics; and Engine/Transmission.

Notably, when results from the 2011 studies are compared to results from five years ago (2006), when the studies were redesigned, it is observed that quality has improved for five of the six component areas—significantly so for four of the six component areas—and satisfaction, or “things gone right,” has significantly improved in all six component areas.

Multimedia systems is the lone exception among the six component areas, declining significantly in quality, while manufacturers and suppliers continue to struggle with making more complex multimedia systems easier for owners to use and understand. However, as is the case with all other component areas, new-vehicle owners are still significantly more satisfied with their multimedia systems in 2011 compared to owners from the 2006 study.

Outlook and Implications for the Future

With the current landscape of in-vehicle communication and entertainment, the environment for the success of components has evolved. There has never been a complex component area like multimedia that requires such a robust and personal understanding of consumer behaviors and consumer expectations. More than ever, both OEMs and suppliers must understand how to assist and not hinder consumer connectivity. There will be some hurdles to overcome, but as long as the same quality metrics are aligned with improved consumer-driven product development requirements, the road for the next 5 years should improve. Continue reading ›