2006 Porsche Cayman S
AP file
The 2006 Porsche Cayman tops the 11th annual J.D. Power and Associates study of owners’ delight with their new vehicles.
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updated 9/20/2006 12:33:08 PM ET 2006-09-20T16:33:08

Each year, automakers around the world spend countless hours working to design vehicles capable of generating strong consumer appeal. Whether it’s the launch of an entirely new model line or the tweaking of an existing vehicle, automakers have one goal in mind: Design an automobile that consumers will like. That said, the annual consumer report card is in. More than 63,000 vehicle owners have spoken up and rated their 2006 vehicles.

For the 11th year in a row, J.D. Power and Associates has conducted its annual Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study. The study measures owner delight with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles. In particular, the study seeks to find how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive. In total, the 2006 study was based on responses from more than 63,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2006 model year cars and trucks. All those surveyed purchased or leased a vehicle between the months of November 2005 and January 2006, and all participants were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership.

The overall APEAL score is based on 10 different categories: engine/transmission; driving dynamics; storage and space; seats; vehicle interior; heating, ventilation and cooling; vehicle exterior; audio/entertainment/navigation; visibility and driving safety; and fuel economy.

Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis for J.D. Power and Associates, said, “Basically, if you want to put it in a nutshell, [the study] is what consumers like and do not like about their vehicle.” So, what traits seem to be the biggest factors for vehicle appeal in the industry? A vehicle’s exterior was rated highest among the consumers surveyed. Driving dynamics was the second most important characteristic, and the vehicle’s interior ranked third on the list.

As for highlights of the study, J.D. Power and Associates reported that although many consumers are looking for a painless, trouble-free ownership experience, there are a large group of buyers who are most interested in things like comfort, style and performance. It was also reported that models with higher APEAL scores appear to have more satisfied owners, sell more quickly and generate more profit, according to the study.

Tom Kontos, chief economist of ADESA Analytical Services, said he is not surprised that vehicles such as the Mini Cooper appear on the list. Changing economic conditions, such as higher gas prices, have impacted what consumers find appealing in a vehicle, he said. “My wholesale price data for vehicles sold at auction continues to show the compact-car segment outperforming all others in terms of average price growth,” said Kontos. “Some of that is clearly to do with high gas prices that have increased consumer and dealer demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.”

Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, was a bit more skeptical of the vehicles that received J.D. Power and Associates APEAL awards this year. "The Armada is a question, because warranty and quality issues have dogged this vehicle. That puts the entire list in question,” he said. “Owners of Chevrolet's Suburban and Tahoe are by far the most satisfied customers in this vehicle class."

Spinella did note, however, that new vehicle owners appear to be more pleased with their purchases than ever before. “There is no doubt consumers are happier with their cars and trucks today than they have been in decades,” Spinella said. “Higher quality, lower maintenance costs, better construction overall and an increased array of features such as vastly improved sound systems all combine to make the appeal of new vehicles higher.”

This ForbesAutos.com Top 10 list of the most appealing vehicles was compiled based on figures released by the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 APEAL Study. On each vehicle page, linked to from the Top 10 table above, is the respective J.D. Power and Associates Circle Power rating. The scoring legend: five stars, among the best; four stars, better than most; three stars, about average; two stars, the rest. (Apparently, there is not a one star rating.)

© 2013 Forbes.com

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