U.S. car brands top imports in consumer appeal study


File photo of a Ford Motor Co. dealership in Encinitas

DETROIT (Reuters) – U.S.-based automakers led by Ford Motor Co have surpassed foreign brands in vehicle appeal for the first time in 13 years, according to a closely watched annual survey released on Thursday.

Helped by popular new launches, U.S. domestic brands averaged 787 points on a 1,000-point scale in the J.D.Power & Associates survey of 33 brands, 13 points higher than the average score for imported brands.

Vehicle models with high appeal scores tend to generate faster sales, higher profit margins and less need for cash incentives. High vehicle appeal also has a strong influence on customer recommendations.

In 2009, imported brands outpaced domestic brands by five points.

Luxury brands dominated the survey, led by Porsche, Jaguar, BMW, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover.

Audi, Toyota Motor Corp’s premium Lexus nameplate, Honda Motor Co’s Acura, Ford’s Lincoln, GM’s Cadillac rounded out the top 10.

Among mass-market brands, General Motors Co’s mass-market Chevrolet brand jumped 10 places to rank 18th, driven by its Camaro sports car and Avalanche truck.

Ford, which ranked No. 1 for new car quality among mass-market brands in a separate J.D.Power study released last month, ranked 16th for appeal, same as last year, making it the No. 2 mass-market brand after Volkswagen AG.

In addition, five of Ford’s vehicles — the Expedition SUV, Explorer Sport Trac, Flex SUV, Fusion and Taurus sedans — were rated best in their segments, more than any other brand.

Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen each won two segment awards.

Hit by a series of damaging safety recalls earlier this year, Toyota Motor Corp’s flagship brand placed 32nd, second to last.

Chrysler Group LLC’s Jeep brand finished last in the study, which measures how much consumers want to own a new vehicle based on vehicle attributes such as design, interior and performance. The survey was conducted between February and May among more than 76,000 consumers.

“Domestic automakers have performed three important actions during the past two years that have led to their gains,” said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D.Power.

“Firstly, they have retired many models that demonstrated low appeal. They have also introduced new, highly appealing models to their lineups.”

(Reporting by Soyoung Kim; editing by Gary Hill and Andre Grenon)

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