As revealed in J.D. Power's recent studies, Tesla can win big and lose hard. Either way, its fans will love its cars.
Whether you’re building a time machine, a supercar or an EV, there’s just something about gullwing doors that makes everything else seem boring. Doc Brown made it clear in Back to the Future when he explained: “The way I see it, if you're going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Many years later, in the HBO series Silicon Valley, the billionaire venture capitalist Russ Hanneman reaffirmed the theory when he slammed the basic out-swing doors of his Maserati, proclaiming: “These are not the doors of a billionaire!”
Given our pop cultural infatuation with cool doors, innovative sources of propulsion and futuristic technology, it should come as little surprise that Tesla owners get very excited about their cars—even if those Falcon Wing doors on the Model X don’t always line up properly when they close.
Love and Hate Are Not Mutually Exclusive
That logic is the key to understanding how Tesla became the best-scoring manufacturer evaluated in the J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, just weeks after it was the worst-scoring manufacturer evaluated in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS). Say what you will about build quality, panel gaps and paint irregularities, Teslas have a cool factor that elevates the brand in the eyes of its owners. Accordingly, owners are perfectly comfortable looking past the pain points in favor of options like Ludicrous Speed, Autopilot, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and, of course, those doors on the Model X.
The press—particularly members of the press who own Teslas—were indignant when the IQS results were published last month. CNBC host and Tesla owner Jim Cramer said the results were “nonsense” because he and all of the Tesla owners he knows think their cars are the “greatest thing to ever happen.” Others asked whether Tesla had somehow been deceiving owners by charging top dollar for inferior products.
Where both of these viewpoints go wrong is in the assumption that owners can’t love a car and experience problems with it at the same time. But that’s precisely the quotient we’re trying to measure with our two studies. The IQS simply asks owners of new vehicles to cite specific problems they experienced during the first 90 days of ownership. The APEAL study is more subjective. It measures owners’ experiences and satisfaction with vehicle design, content, layout and performance during the first 90 days of ownership.
Based on those two criteria, Tesla is the Labrador Retriever puppy of auto manufacturers. You love it even if it eats your furniture.
Building Automotive Appeal at Scale
That duality is part of the appeal for Tesla owners. Take the manufacturer’s software industry-style approach to technology development. Rather than building a new technology, battle testing it on the factory proving grounds, then rolling it out in the next model year, Tesla launches beta versions of new technologies in real time, continually updating them based on real-world customer feedback. That’s a fundamental change to automotive product development that has introduced some degree of failure by design. Yet, it’s exactly the kind of early adopter, tech forward philosophy that many Tesla owners embrace—even if it means some things don’t work perfectly every time.
The widespread expansion of Tesla into the mainstream with the Model 3 has put the complex duality automobile ownership into the spotlight because there are now enough vehicles on the road to get a real feel for how Tesla’s unique approach to building cars will play out at scale. In fact, this was the first year the brand was profiled in the IQS and APEAL studies. Though Tesla was not officially ranked in the studies because it did not grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states, we were able to collect a large enough sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states to calculate Tesla’s score.
As the brand continues to go more and more mainstream, and as more mainstream brands edge further onto Tesla’s turf, with the introduction of vehicles like the Porsche Taycan EV and Ford Mustang Mach E, it will be important to track this ongoing interplay between number of problems reported and the emotional connection with owners. Can Tesla continue to occupy this rarified space in owners’ hearts and minds, or will the wow factor eventually take a back seat to build quality and reliability?
Only time will tell. But, for now, Tesla owners can take solace in the fact that if a remake of Back to the Future was made today, the hero car quite possibly would be a Tesla. No need for the lightning; it would have 1.21 gigawatts right out of the box.
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Doug Betts is the president of the automotive division at J.D. Power.
*J.D. Power is set to publish the APEAL study results today, July 22, 2020, at noon ET. You can read it by following the source link below. In addition, the text is available in its entirety by clicking our Press Release tab below.
Most Owners Satisfied with New Vehicles; Some Truly Love Them Despite Their Flaws, J.D. Power Finds
Porsche Ranks Highest Overall; Dodge Ranks Highest among Mass Market Brands; Hyundai Motor Group Receives Most Segment-Level Awards
22 July 2020
When it comes to driving sales, as well as generating brand loyalty and advocacy, vehicles that create joy for their owners often overcomes any negatives caused by problems they experience. This phenomenon is most effectively seen in the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study,SM released today.
“Purchasing the ‘right’ vehicle is influenced by a variety of factors, depending on each buyer’s specific tastes, wants and needs,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “The APEAL Study measures an owner’s emotional attachment to their new vehicle and in what areas that vehicle may not be delivering on all of the positive experiences that were hoped for. Understanding this is just as valuable to automakers as knowing about quality issues and owner acceptance of new technologies. The goal for automakers is to delight customers on all these dimensions. Some are better than others at doing this.”
Now in its 25th year, the study has been redesigned for 2020. It complements the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS)SM and the J.D. Power Tech Experience Index (TXI) StudySM by measuring owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle across 37 attributes, ranging from the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat to the feeling they get when they step on the accelerator. These attributes are aggregated to compute an overall APEAL index score measured on a 1,000-point scale.
Following are key findings of the 2020 study:
- Some vehicles deliver both outstanding levels of APEAL and initial quality: Eight models receiving APEAL segment awards also received awards in the 2020 Initial Quality Study: Audi A3, BMW X6, Cadillac CT6, Genesis G70, Hyundai Veloster, Jaguar E-Pace, Nissan Armadaand Nissan Maxima.
- Gap between luxury and mass market brands is narrowest ever:The average APEAL score for luxury brands is 861 points, compared with 838 for mass market brands. This 23-point gap is the narrowest in the study’s history.
- Dodge’s notable achievement:By being the top-ranked mass market brand, Dodge becomes the first domestic brand to rank highest in the mass market segment for both APEAL and IQS in the same year. Only Hyundai has previously achieved the feat in the mass market segment, while Genesis, Lexus and Porsche have done so in the luxury segment.
- Tesla profiled for first time: Tesla receives an APEAL index score of 896. The automaker is not officially ranked among other brands in the study as it doesn’t meet ranking criteria. “Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required,” said Doug Betts, president of the automotive division at J.D. Power. “However, we were able to collect a large enough sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states and, from that base, we calculated Tesla’s score.”
Porsche ranks highest in the luxury segment and overall with a score of 881. Lincoln (876) ranks second, followed by Cadillac (874), BMW (869) and Land Rover (866).
Dodge ranks highest in the mass market segment with a score of 872. Ram (871) ranks second, followed by GMC (857), Ford (853) and MINI (846).
Mazda climbs the most in the mass market rankings, placing nine spots higher than in 2019. Cadillac climbs six places in the premium rankings, the most in that segment.
Model-Level APEAL Awards
The parent company receiving the most model-level awards (given to models ranking highest in their respective segment) is Hyundai Motor Group (five awards), followed by BMW AG and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., with four each.
The complete list of award recipients is:
- Hyundai Motor Group: Genesis G70; Hyundai Sonata; Hyundai Veloster; Kia Stinger; and Kia Telluride
- BMW AG: BMW 7 Series; BMW X4; BMW X6; and MINI Countryman
- Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.: Nissan Armada;Nissan Maxima; Nissan Sentra; and Nissan Versa
- General Motors Company: Cadillac CT6; Chevrolet Blazer; and GMC Sierra HD
- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: Dodge Challenger and Ram 1500
- Ford Motor Company: Ford Escape and Lincoln Navigator
- Honda Motor Company: Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline
- Jaguar Land Rover Limited: Jaguar E-Pace and Land Rover Range Rover Velar
- Mazda Motor Corporation: Mazda CX-5
- Toyota Motor Corporation: Toyota C-HR
- Volkswagen AG: Audi A3
The BMW X6 is the highest-scoring model in the study. Receiving a model-level award for a third consecutive year are MINI Countryman and Nissan Maxima. BMW X4, Chevrolet Blazer, Dodge Challenger, Honda Odyssey and Lincoln Navigator each receive a model-level award for a second consecutive year.
The 2020 U.S. APEAL Study is based on responses from 87,282 owners of new 2020 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. It was fielded from February through May 2020.
The study, which complements the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS)SM and the J.D. Power Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study,SM is used extensively by manufacturers worldwide to help them design and develop more appealing vehicles, and is used by consumers to help them in their purchase decisions. The 2020 redesign marks the fourth generation of the study.
For more information about the 2020 U.S. APEAL Study, visit http://www.jdpower.com/resource/jd-power-automotive-performance-execution-and-layout-apeal-study.
J.D. Power is a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics. These capabilities enable J.D. Power to help its clients drive customer satisfaction, growth and profitability. Established in 1968, J.D. Power has offices serving North America, Asia Pacific and Europe.