Wednesday, July 21, 2010

JD Power APEAL awards announced

Following up the IQS awards announced previously by JD Power, the APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) study measures vehicles in 80 criteria to determine how 'gratifying' vehicles are to own and drive and result in a score on a 1000 point scale.  The survey was conducted with 76000 owners after 90 days of ownership.

Mirroring the IQS, this marks a major sea change with the Detroit automakers surpassing the imports with an 11 point gain for the 'domestics' with a 7 point drop for the 'imports'.

At the top of the APEAL rankings sits Porsche for the 6th straight year.  Ford saw 5 of its nameplates rank in the top of their segments.  No other brand had more than 2 vehicles top their segments.

JDP noted along with their study that the swing of the domestic brands was led by new designs for many products that saw them much more satisfying than their predecessors to consumers.

AutoPacific Ideal Awards announced

AutoPacific survey's owners of vehicles to determine which their owners would change the least (i.e. are the most closely matched to what their owners would consider to be 'ideal').

This year's winners are:

2010 Ideal Premium Brand: Porsche
2010 Ideal Popular Brand and Top Brand Overall: Ford
2010 Ideal Product Segment: Large Crossover SUV

2010 Ideal Vehicle Award Winners:

Passenger Cars:
Premium Luxury Car                   Volvo S80
Aspirational Luxury Car              Volvo V70
Large Car                            Ford Taurus SHO*
Luxury Mid-Size Car                  Lincoln MKZ
Premium Mid-Size Car                 Ford Fusion
Mid-Size Car                         Suzuki Kizashi*
Premium Compact Car                  Volkswagen GTI*
Compact Car                          Volkswagen Golf
Economy Car                          Honda Fit*
Sports Car                           Porsche Cayman
Sporty Car                           Chevrolet Camaro*
Hybrid Car                           Ford Fusion Hybrid*

Pickups, SUVs and Minivans
Large Light Duty Pickup              Ford F-150*
Heavy Duty Pickup                    Ford F-250
Compact Pickup                       Honda Ridgeline*
Luxury SUV                           Range Rover
Large SUV                            Chevrolet Suburban
Premium Mid-Size SUV                 Ford Explorer
Mid-Size SUV                         Dodge Nitro*
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV         Lincoln MKT EcoBoost*
Luxury Crossover SUV                 Lexus RX*
Large Crossover SUV                  Ford Flex EcoBoost
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV       Chevrolet Equinox
Mid-Size Crossover SUV               Ford Escape*
Compact Crossover SUV                Jeep Compass
Minivan                              Honda Odyssey*
Hybrid Truck                         Ford Escape Hybrid

*Also winners of AutoPacific's 2010 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Short Take: Suzuki Kizashi Turbo

At the recent Rocky Mountain Driving Experience event at High Plains Raceway, I got a chance to take a Suzuki Kizashi out on the track.

Interestingly enough, this Kizashi was a prototype (as far as I could tell, the only prototype we had a chance to drive on the track).  It was packing an aftermarket turbo kit (from Road Race Motorsports) that, according to the Suzuki representative on-site, is being seriously considered for production.

The Kizashi is, admittedly, my size of car.  It is easily the size that we considered to be 'mid-sized' just a couple generations back.  With so many family cars now living in the EPA Large-car class (I'm looking at you Accord) - it is certainly refreshing to have a smaller, more toss-able, package available.

Base Kizashi's make due with 185hp. The turbo model, if in the same tune I drove, would pack at least 100 more...taking what is a nice and enjoyable drive well into serious sports sedan territory (the turbo model does have the advantage of a all-wheel drive system to help put that power down).

Given its size and power, and the all-wheel drive system - the Kizashi turbo could give cars like the Impreza WRX and the Mazdaspeed3 a run for their money, especially with buyers that could use something in a slightly more spacious package than either of these offer.

I, for one, am looking forward to what Suzuki can do - if they choose to stay in the US market through the current economic downturn (and its impact on their already low sales).

Mazda comes late to CPO game

In a move that will likely help Mazda dealers compete, Mazda finally has unveiled its own Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program to help make used Mazda's more appealing to customers.

Where, up to this point, a used Mazda had to stand on its condition and whatever backing the customer could expect from the dealer (or through 3rd party used car extended warranties) now a 2006 or newer Mazda under the CPO program will get a 7 year/100k powertrain warranty, a 12 month/12k mile bumper to bumper extension (if fewer than a year or 12k miles of B2B warranty are left) and road-side assistance coverage.

This should help Mazda dealers in a tough economy compete with similar programs from other brands.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2012 Corvette to get new 5.5l DI Smallblock

GM Insiders have told Motor Trend to expect that the next generation smallblock V-8, in 5.5l size will show up between the fenders of the C7 Corvette.

The C7's new engine will maintain its OHV configuration, but will be packing aluminum block and heads and will be the latest engine in GM's stable to have direct injection technology.

Chevy expects the engine to easily put out 440hp (slightly more than the current Vette's 436, while scoring significantly better fuel economy).

This is a bridge car, based largely on the current C6 platform, while GM works feverishly to develop a C8 Corvette for later in the decade that will be smaller, lighter, and able to stay in the lineup without damaging GM's ability to meet increasingly strict mileage requirements.

Some rumors put the C8 as being based, in part, on the upcoming Alpha rear-drive platform currently under development for Cadillac and expected to underpin the next Camaro.  In Corvette guise, the platform would be able to pack a V-8 but might be light enough that a high-power V-6 might see use as a base powertrain (the first time in decades that a 6 has powered a production Corvette).


JD Power IQS ranks Detroit ahead of imports for the first time

JDP has released their latest Initial Quality Survey (measuring problems encountered during the first 90 days of ownership) and had one big surprise in store.

While the industry average went down slightly (from 108 problems per 100 vehicles in 2009 to 109 in 2010), this year's results are the first time that the Detroit 3 have come out ahead of imports.  The Detroit brands actually improved their quality over last year's results by 4, bringing them to a score of 108.  The import brands matched the overall industry average of 109.

Ford was the highest ranked US brand with a score of 93.

JD Power ranks lists the top 3 models in several segments and Ford had a model represented in the top 3 in a dozen segments.  They had 3 models that topped their respective segments, tied with Lexus for most top-of-segment honors.

GM had 10 models in the top 3 of their segments.

Chrysler's results were mixed with Ram coming in just shy of industry average with the Dodge car brand (Ram split from Dodge recently, taking the truck lines away from Dodge) coming in as the worst Detroit brand in initial quality.

It is interesting to notice that Toyota's recent troubles have pulled its ranking down significantly falling from 6th place last year to 21st in the 2010 survey.  It is significant to mention that IQS has its detractors since any complaint on the survey is listed as a problem (recent high profile examples were Mini dropping low in the list in part due to poor cupholder design).  This means that IQS scores can be highly dependent on the level of picky-ness of the customers of a brand during a given year.

Highest in the rankings this year was Porsche with a 83 and lowest went to Land Rover with 170.