But the top spot was occupied by an unexpected commuter sedan.
J.D. Power has just revealed the results of its 2021 US Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study. Whereas the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) hones in on quality, the APEAL Study is a gauge of the emotional attachment and excitement level that customers express towards their vehicle of choice. With the study now in its 26th year, Porsche once again topped the rankings for premium brands with a score of 882, while Dodge led the way for mass-market brands with an identical rating. In last year's study, Dodge tied with Ram while Porsche outperformed other rival brands in the premium sector.
The APEAL Study requires owners to assess their vehicles based on 37 attributes including how they feel when they get behind the wheel. Over 110,000 owners were surveyed this year. Interestingly, the appeal of mass-market brands is narrowing the gap on premium brands, with a 19-point difference this year as opposed to 23 points a year ago. After Porsche, the leading premium brands are Genesis, Land Rover, Lincoln, and BMW. However, Tesla is unofficially the number one premium brand with a score of 893, but the EV automaker could not be ranked as it does not meet certain ranking criteria. Specifically, Tesla doesn't allow J.D. Power to survey its vehicles' owners in the 15 required states. In the IQS study results revealed earlier this year, Tesla paradoxically put in a particularly poor showing.
After Dodge, the top mass-market brands were Ram, Nissan, GMC, Ford, and Kia. Looking at specific models, General Motors, BMW, the Hyundai Motor Group, and Nissan all had multiple category winners. Examples were the BMW 4 Series, BMW X6, Chevrolet Blazer, Kia K5, and Nissan Maxima. The Ford Bronco Sport and Mustang Mach-E both put in strong showings for the Blue Oval, while the winning large light-duty pickup was the Ram 1500. The strong-selling Chevy Corvette was the top-ranked premium sporty car. The top overall model in this year's study was the unassuming Nissan Maxima, which was also the highest-scoring model in the IQS study, the first time a mass-market model has ever achieved the feat.
At the other end of the spectrum, brands like Acura, Infiniti, Jeep, Buick, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler all ranked well below the average in the respective premium and mass-market categories.
Still, there has been an overall improvement in the appeal of new vehicles. "One of the biggest factors driving the industry's improvement this year is the introduction of several highly appealing new models," said director of global automotive at J.D. Power, David Amodeo. He was referring to big recent launches like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Chevrolet Tahoe, and Genesis G80.