Drivers of new cars were less satisfied with their vehicles this year for the first time in at least five years – mainly because of rising fuel prices, according to an annual survey released Thursday.
The survey by J.D. Power and Associates, a marketing and consulting company, saw the industry average drop to 770 this year, two points lower than in 2007. The survey measures owner satisfaction with the design, layout and performance of new vehicles.
It was the first drop in at least five years, said Neal Oddes, J.D. Power's director of product research and analysis. Gas prices rose 27 percent in the period between the 2007 and 2008 surveys, he said, but the latest survey found that fuel economy stayed the same at an average of 21 miles per gallon.
“The fuel economy hasn't improved from last year to this year,” Oddes said. “You just haven't seen that movement.”
Foreign nameplates again dominated the survey, but U.S.-based automakers continued to show improvement.
Porsche led all brands, scoring 854 out of a possible 1,000 points, followed by Jaguar at 844. Cadillac was the highest-scoring U.S.-based brand at 827, the research company said.
It also found that models that were given mild updates scored higher on average than models that were entirely redesigned, a departure from previous years.
The Honda brand captured more model segment awards than any other automaker with three each. Its subcompact Fit, Odyssey minivan and Ridgeline midsize pickup scored highest in their segments.
Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen each took two segment awards.
Of the eight most-improved nameplates, all were U.S. brands, according to the survey. Buick posted the largest improvement, followed by Chrysler, Ford, Mercury and Dodge.
The survey, conducted for the past 13 years, is based on responses from more than 81,500 people who bought or leased vehicles November to January. They were surveyed Feb. 4 to April 30, Oddes said. It has a margin of error of one point on the scale of 1,000.
J.D. Power's annual initial quality rankings, released last month, showed that the quality of new cars improved across the industry this year.