J.D. Power study shows decline in owner satisfaction for second consecutive year
For the first time in research firm J.D. Power’s 28 years of producing the U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study, there is a consecutive year-over-year decline in owner satisfaction. According to the 2023 study, overall satisfaction is 845 (on a 1,000-point scale), a decrease of 2 points from a year ago and 3 points lower than in 2021.
The 2023 U.S. APEAL Study is based on responses from 84,555 owners of new 2023 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.
“The decline in consecutive years might look small, but it’s an indicator that larger issues may lie under the surface,” said Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at J.D. Power. “Despite the technology and design innovations that manufacturers put into new vehicles, owners are lukewarm about them. While innovations like charging pads, vehicle apps, and advanced audio features should enhance an owner’s experience, this is not the case when problems are experienced. This downward trajectory of satisfaction should be a warning sign to manufacturers that they need to better understand what owners really want in their new vehicles.”
The study is based on 10 factors—nine of which have declined year over year, the study reveals. The only factor to improve is fuel economy (771), which is 15 points higher than in 2022. The factor with the largest year-over-year decline is exterior, decreasing to 888 from 894. Satisfaction with exterior styling on new models in 2023 is particularly unremarkable, scoring only 3 points above carryover models.
Built-in infotainment systems are a prime example of technology not resonating with today’s buyers, the study says. Only 56 percent of owners prefer to use their vehicle’s built-in system to play audio, down from 70 percent in 2020. Three of the most common uses for built-in systems are: owners looking to make phone calls; use voice recognition; and navigation—with less than half (45 percent, 37 percent and 43 percent, respectively) of owners preferring to use their vehicle’s built-in system for these functions.
The APEAL Study measures owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle, asking owners to consider 37 attributes, ranging from the sense of comfort they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat to their exhilaration when they step on the accelerator. Vehicle owners’ responses to queries about these attributes are aggregated to compute an overall APEAL Index score.
One key finding is that electrified vehicles are closing the gap to gas-powered vehicles: The overall APEAL Index score for gasoline-powered vehicles is 843, tied with plug-in hybrids. In comparison, Battery Electric Vehicles (excluding Tesla) increased by 2 points year over year to 840 and have reduceded the gap in satisfaction to gas-powered vehicles to just 3 points. Tesla vehicles are summarized separately due to their high weight in the BEV segment, J.D. Power says. It is notable that certain attributes of Tesla models continue to outperform other BEVs, though there are challengers emerging from traditional manufacturers, including five BEV models that received segment awards.
Satisfaction with Tesla declined, however: Tesla, with a score of 878, remains one of the higher performing brands in the industry. However, the score in 2023 is 9 points lower than a year ago when Tesla was first included in the study. Satisfaction scores for Tesla have declined year over year in all 10 factors. Because Tesla does not allow J.D. Power access to owner information in the states where that permission is required by law, Tesla models remain ineligible for awards.