Ownership satisfaction among US vehicle buyers has declined for consecutive years, according to the 2023 JD Power US Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) study. The findings state that the overall satisfaction score among buyers is 845, on a 1000-point scale, decreasing by two points from 2022 and three points from 2021.

The study analyses ownership experience across 10 factors, nine of which garnered a lower score than last year. The factors are focused on user experience, with attributes like walking up to your vehicle, setting up and starting, ingress and egress, interior, powertrain, and safety among others, over 90 days of ownership. 

So what led to this decline? Exterior design seems to be the Achilles heel for 2023 models, with its score dropping from 894 to 888.

Another chink in automakers' armor seems to be the infotainment systems, which don’t resonate with many buyers. Only 56 percent of owners use their vehicle’s built-in systems to play audio, down from 70 percent in 2020. Less than half of the owners surveyed use the infotainment systems for phone calls, navigation, and voice commands.

However, buyers seem to love the user experience of the Android Automotive Operating System (AAOS) paired with Google Automotive Services (GAS); owners of vehicles with these features seemed more satisfied than those without. Volvo uses this system on its newer models, among other automakers.

Unsurprisingly, BEVs outperformed ICE vehicles in fuel economy score – the only factor where satisfaction improved. BEVs (excluding Tesla) scored 797, while the gas-guzzlers scored 758 in the fuel economy category.

Moreover, BEV owners are nearly as satisfied with their vehicles as ICE owners whereas plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and ICE vehicles are tied at 843 on JD Power’s APEAL Index.

Some BEVs fared better than ICE vehicles in select segments. Remarkably, the top three models in the compact SUV category are all BEVs, with the Kia EV6 and Nissan Ariya tied for the top spot, followed by the Ford Mustang Mach-e. In the upper mid-size premium SUV category, the BMW iX outperformed the BMW X6 and Range Rover Sport.

Tesla owners’ satisfaction declined. Even though the Austin-headquartered brand remains among the top scorers, tied with BMW at 878, its 2023 score is nine points lower than 2022. Its score plummeted in all 10 factors. Moreover, Teslas remained ineligible for awards because the brand restricts “access to owner information in the states where that permission is required by law,” as per JD Power.

Despite the drop, Tesla remains the top dog in the BEV space in the US, and its models outperformed other BEVs. JD Power summarizes Tesla separately due to its “high weight in the BEV segment.”

Here’s what Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at JD Power said about the results:

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.

While the highest-ranked brands were Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, and Porsche, most model-level satisfaction awards went to the Hyundai Motor Group. The Korean carmaker topped rankings with nine of its models scoring high in customer satisfaction, including the all-electric Genesis GV60.

BMW AG received the second-highest model-level ranking with five of its vehicles garnering high scores, including the BMW iX. JD Power awarded the overall win to the Porsche 911, whose electric version is reportedly in the works.

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