Car Interior Gains Importance In New Survey

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New-vehicle satisfaction is increasingly being driven by the vehicle interior, according to the J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2012 India Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study SM released today.

Now in its 14th year, the India APEAL Study is an owner-reported measure of what gratifies vehicle owners in India with the design, features, layout and performance of their new vehicle during the first two months of ownership. The study measures satisfaction across 10 performance categories: vehicle exterior; vehicle interior; storage and space; audio/ entertainment/ navigation; seats; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); driving dynamics; engine/ transmission; visibility and driving safety; and fuel economy. Overall APEAL performance is reported as an index score based on a 1,000-point scale, with a higher score indicating higher satisfaction.

The study finds that during the past four years, the impact of the vehicle interior on overall satisfaction has increased consistently, particularly in the two fastest-growing vehicle segments in India-small car (which includes entry compact, compact and premium compact cars) and utility (which includes MUV/ MPVs, SUVs and vans). However, visibility and driving safety, followed by fuel economy, continue to be the leading drivers of satisfaction among new-vehicle owners in India. The interior factor has experienced a 28-point improvement compared with 2009, and an 8-point improvement over 2011.

"To improve the quality and aesthetics of their models, automakers have made significant efforts and investments to enhance the overall design and quality of the vehicle interior, even in the small car segment," said Mohit Arora, executive director, J.D. Power Asia Pacific. "This is evident in the newly launched models, as well as the refreshed models launched in 2012. Both newly launched and refreshed models perform 17 points higher in the interior factor compared with other models."

The overall APEAL score in 2012 averages 836, which is a seven-point increase from 2011. The industry improves across all 10 categories, similar to 2011, with the largest improvements in fuel economy and vehicle interior.

Satisfaction is higher among owners of diesel-powered vehicles than among owners of petrol-powered vehicles. Moreover, the gap in satisfaction scores between owners of diesel and petrol vehicles has changed significantly during the past four years. In 2012, the APEAL score for diesel vehicles is 22 points higher than for petrol vehicles, while in 2009 the score for petrol vehicles was 3 points higher than that for diesel vehicles. Further, diesel vehicles achieve an average APEAL score of 839 for fuel economy in 2012, which is 24 index points higher than for petrol vehicles.

"The fuel price gap is driving demand for diesel vehicles in India and has made petrol vehicle owners increasingly wary of the amount they spend to run their vehicle," said Arora. "This is reflected in their overall level of satisfaction as well, since they seem more critical of various aspects of the vehicle, such as fuel economy."

Model Results by Segment

The Chevrolet Spark and Maruti Suzuki Estilo rank highest in a tie in the compact car segment with a score of 837 each. The Chevrolet Spark performs particularly well in the audio/ entertainment/ navigation and driving dynamics categories, while the Maruti Suzuki Estilo performs particularly well in seats.

The Maruti Suzuki Swift DZire ranks highest in the entry midsize car segment for a fifth consecutive year, with a score of 841.

The Maruti Suzuki SX4 and the Nissan Sunny rank highest in a tie in the midsize car segment with 853 points each. Both models perform particularly well in the storage and space and HVAC categories.

The Honda Jazz ranks highest in the premium compact car segment with a score of 866 index points and performs well across all 10 categories.

Toyota leads the utility vehicle segments, as the Innova ranks highest in the MUV/ MPV segment for a sixth consecutive year, with a score of 872, while the Fortuner ranks highest in the SUV segment with a score of 877, which is the highest APEAL score in the study.

The 2012 India APEAL Study is based on responses from more than 8,000 owners who purchased a new vehicle between November 2011 and July 2012. The study was fielded between May and September 2012 in 25 cities across India.

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