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Tesla Tops Consideration and Vehicle Satisfaction Results

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Each year there are several surveys of Vehicle Satisfaction in the United States marketplace.  Two of the most respected are from Consumer Reports, the widely read consumer buyer guide and automotive-specialist research company AutoPacific.  Consumer Reports results were released on December 22, 2016.  AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction results were released on June 1, 2016.

The results are similar in some ways.  The differences between AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” results and Consumer Reports “Would Buy Again” results can be dramatic.  AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” measures owner loyalty.  That is what percentage of the brand’s present owners would consider the brand again?  AutoPacific also assumes vehicle buyers may be considering more than one brand in the future.  This makes the percentage of consumers considering any one brand usually higher than the more definite “will buy” results from Consumer Reports.

brand-consideration-comparison-vvTesla is tops in all three measurements from Consumer Reports and AutoPacific.  Then the comparisons diverge dramatically.  In AutoPacific’s consideration results, popular domestic brands Ford (4) and Chevrolet (6) are in the top ten.  In CR’s “will buy again” results Chevrolet is 9th and Ford is 15th separated by one percentage point.   Second ranked in CR’s results, Porsche is 8th in AutoPacific’s consideration.  Cadillac is second in AutoPacific’s consideration results but 22nd in CR’s rankings.

An interesting result in AutoPacific’s two measurements is that Ford and Chevrolet are very strongly considered while scoring below the industry average in their vehicle satisfaction scores.  This is testament to the strength of their brand image.

So how can consumers use these divergent messages?  Compare the brands at the top and the bottom of the list and see where there are similarities.  In both Consumer Reports and AutoPacific results, Fiat is at the bottom.  Ram, Fiat Chrysler’s truck-only brand has OK results from CR, but is on the bottom of the AutoPacific future consideration results.  Hot-selling Jeep is towards the bottom in all the measurements.  Should the buyer consider buying a Jeep a risk if owners are hesitant to buy another one?  Would a new Jeep get lower satisfaction scores?  Infiniti gets a pretty good satisfaction score from AutoPacific, but both CR “will buy” and AutoPacific consideration scores are very low.  Something is going on there.

For each brand there is a story.  Data compiled by organizations like Consumer Reports and AutoPacific can go a long way in helping consumers fine tune their consideration set when they are in the market for a new car or light truck.


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2017 Bentley Bentayga – The Bentley Boys are Busy

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Bentley Bentayga Dune RunningBentley Motors of Crewe, England has begun production of the 2017 Bentley Bentayga and vehicles will begin arriving in the United States in May, 2016.  Ho Hum, just another SUV for an overstuffed market, right?  Not so.  The Bentayga is a very, very special piece of work.

Meant to Be Expensive and Is  Based on the Audi Q7 platform that will also bring us the next generation Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, the Bentayga is the most expensive and most powerful SUV available.  Starting at $229,000 the Bentayga is fully loaded with all the comfort, convenience and safety features you could want.  If you want the bespoke Mulliner picnic set from Linley, it will set you back another $28,000.  For another $28,500, you can have carbon fiber body pieces like the rear spoiler and rear view mirror covers.  Contrasting piping on the seats is $2,110 and the rear seat entertainment system is a bit over $7,000.  A typical Bentayga will go out the door at around $275,000 with an adequate load of options.  During a drive experience in Palm Springs in early February, the highest priced version I drove was $307,000.

Technological Tour de Force  While the price of the Bentayga is what most people will be talking about, the vehicle itself is very, very high spec.  Powered by a new 6.0L twin turbo W12 engine, the horsepower is rated at 600HP, but the torque is huge at 663 lb-ft.  Mated to a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, a 0-60 mph time of 4.0 seconds is achieved.  For those with no speed limits to worry about, top speed is 187 mph.  The full time all wheel drive system is mated with Bentley Dynamic Drive Control; a suspension system that has 4 settings as base or eight settings with the All Terrain Specification for any road or terrain condition.  The key to this dynamic system is a 48-volt electrical supply for the drive system’s electronics.  During a demonstration at the Chuckwalla Valley Raceway to the east of Palm Springs one lap using “comfort” was fast, but there was more body roll than desired and the throttle response was a bit anemic.  The next lap shifted to “sport” mode and the personality of the vehicle changed dramatically.  Throttle response was instantaneous and the suspension seemed to invite you to dive into the corners more aggressively.  After four laps (not enough), grins for all.

Dune running with the Bentayga at Imperial Dunes near Glamis, California and rock climbing at Cahuilla Creek, it was possible to experience what almost no Bentayga owners ever will.  The vehicle is supremely capable, but hugely expensive and not likely to be exposed to the kind of treatment off road in sand, mud, or rocks.   Repairing the all aluminum body would be a bit expensive.  But, it is clear the Bentayga can handle about anything that can be thrown at it on and off road.  A truism holds that a vehicle in this class will not be taken off-road until the third or fourth owner.Bentley Bentayga and Jet

Interior  The interior is available in 15 colors (the exterior color choices are 17 base paints expanding to 90 hues with extra cost), but of course it is a Bentley.  If you want to afford it, they’ll trim your interior in crocodile leather or rattlesnake skins.  The seats are trimmed in a traditional Bentley style with diamond quilted hide and smooth leather.  The seats are extremely comfortable and provide good support when cornering.  The seating position is more car-like than in many sport utilities.  You have to step up a bit higher and you are sitting a bit closer to the floor than in other SUVs that have a more command-of-the road seating position.  Not uncomfortable, just different.

Driving  Driving the Bentayga, it is not immediately obvious that there is 600HP under the hood.  The engine is smooth and silent.  It has a stop/start feature for improved fuel economy and cylinder deactivation when under light loads.  All of this is seamless except for the occasional shudder away from a stop.  On twisty roads the vehicle seems a bit ponderous and very heavy.  Using the “custom” setting in the driving mode selector you can select a lighter steering feel that should make the vehicle seem lighter on its feet.  All of its power and torque comes on immediately when passing.  Floor it, whoosh, you are by and the folks you passed are watching your taillights fade into the distance.

The Achilles Heel  One of the most critical areas in any new vehicle is the HMI or human machine interface.  AutoPacific’s research proves it is extremely difficult to get this right and more than often a manufacturer has gotten it wrong.  As part of the Volkswagen Group, it would be expected that the parts bin would have given Bentley access to state-of-the art navigation systems and interfaces.  Bentley’s director of whole vehicle engineering stated “Luxury should always be simple.”  We agree, but the Bentayga interface is very busy and confusing.  The 8-inch screen in the center stack is already a bit small and looks outdated for a 2017 model year vehicle.  The graphics are extremely busy and hard to decipher.  Changing radio stations is a several step process and includes using a graphic slide on the touch screen monitor to scroll for stations.  We were driving prototypes, so sometimes there are glitches, in the vehicle we were driving the navigation system had the direction icon wandering all over the screen except where we were.  The smaller screen between the speedometer and tachometer and head-up display saved the day.  They were on target.

Business  Bentayga promises to be Bentley’s top selling vehicle.  For the past three years, Bentley has sold just over 10,000 vehicles worldwide.  The $1.3 billion investment in Bentayga adds capacity for 5,000 more units annually.  The United States should get between 25% and 30% of the production or between 1,250 and 1,500 units per year.  Wolfgang Durheimer, CEO of Bentley, says he hopes to be able to expand that capacity in short order.  The order books for 2016 are already full and waiting times are six months to a year.

Next  Bentayga launches with top-of-the-line features.  Next comes a plug-in hybrid version mated to a 6-cylinder engine.  That is followed by a V8; likely the 500HP twin turbo V8 found elsewhere in the Bentley lineup.  There may be a 7-passenger interior in the works for families wanting more carrying capacity.  A fastback Bentayga (ala BMW X6) may be in the works as is a smaller 2-seat sports car.  The Bentley Boys are busy.


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Porsche Leads in AutoPacific’s 2015 Ideal Vehicle Awards; Subaru Matches Ford and Chevrolet in Wins

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TUSTIN, Calif. (August 18, 2015) – Automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc. today announced the 2015 Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA). AutoPacific’s IVAs recognize vehicles that best meet their owner’s expectations and desires, helping consumers make informed vehicle purchase decisions with “owners talking” feedback.

The 2015 awards are based on responses from over 66,000 new vehicle owners across all major manufacturers. Surveyed after 90 days of ownership, respondents were asked what changes they would make to their car or truck in 15 key categories, including ride and handling, driver’s seat comfort, interior storage, safety features, interior lighting, power and acceleration and technology. “While no vehicle has a zero percent desire for change in all areas, IVAs recognize vehicles where owners want the least amount of change across the 15 surveyed attributes,” explains George Peterson, president of AutoPacific.inflatable water slide hire

Porsche and GMC Most Ideal Brands in 2015 – Again

Porsche ranks as the top luxury brand for the third year in a row. GMC receives top popular brand honors for the second year in a row, while also carrying the top popular brand award in AutoPacific’s 2015 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards for the second year in a row.

Porsche leads with four wins, including Most Ideal Premium Brand; Chevrolet, Ford and Subaru racked up three wins apiece. Remaining awards go to Honda, Lincoln, MINI, and GMC with two wins, and Jeep, Kia, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen, each with one win.

Redesigned Vehicles Gain the Advantage

“Each time a manufacturer redesigns a vehicle, they have the opportunity to fix past issues, respond to owner wants and needs, and challenge the competition with a superior product,” says Peterson. This year’s winner’s list contains seven completely redesigned vehicles: Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Suburban, Ford F-150, Honda Fit, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Golf; one major change: Ford Mustang; two new entries: Lexus RC and Porsche Macan; and two vehicles that were redesigned in 2014 and have won two years in a row: Chevrolet Impala and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

2015 Overall Winner: Ford F-150

2015 Most Ideal Premium Brand: Porsche

2015 Most Ideal Popular Brand: GMC

 

Passenger Cars
Luxury Car Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Aspirational Luxury Car Lexus RC
Large Car Kia Cadenza (tie)

Chevrolet Impala (tie)

Luxury Mid-Size Car Lincoln MKZ
Premium Mid-Size Car Subaru Legacy
Premium Compact Car MINI Hardtop/Convertible
Compact Car Volkswagen Golf
Economy Car Honda Fit
Sports Car Porsche 911
Sporty Car Ford Mustang
 
Light Trucks
Light Duty Pickup Ford F-150
Heavy Duty Pickup GMC Sierra HD
Compact Pickup Chevrolet Colorado
Luxury SUV Lincoln Navigator
Large SUV Chevrolet Suburban
Mid-Size SUV Jeep Grand Cherokee
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV Porsche Cayenne
Luxury Crossover SUV Porsche Macan
Large Crossover SUV Ford Flex
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV Subaru Outback
Mid-Size Crossover SUV Subaru Forester
Compact Crossover SUV MINI Countryman
Minivan Honda Odyssey

About AutoPacific

AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm, founded in 1986, also conducts extensive proprietary research, forecasting, and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Additional information can be found on AutoPacific’s websites:  http://www.autopacific.com and http://vehiclevoice.com/

Contacts:

Dan Hall, dan.hall@autopacific.com, 714.838.4234

 


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Dodge Challenger Hellcat

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The all-new Driver Information Display screen in the Challenger

Cruising down the scenic roads along the Columbia River near Portland, Oregon can be a real treat, especially while driving a Dodge Challenger Hellcat with its mean-sounding engine roaring through the twists and turns of this pristine wilderness road.

A few months back, Chrysler invited a few journalist to test drive the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat, along with its entire Challenger lineup. The Challenger Hellcat was a blast to drive, and delivers so much power that it is almost scary to drive. And after our not-so-mellow morning cruise along the river, we were invited to test the Hellcat’s limits by driving laps around Portland International Raceway, trying hard to keep the car in a straight line. But the real fun was just driving the Hellcat around town and watching on-lookers gaze at the car with its loud rumble and gentle supercharger whine emitting from the beast of a car that is the Hellcat. And the specs are quite impressive.


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2014 Kia Forte5 SX – Ed Kim’s Kind of Car

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2014 Kia Forte5 SX SVAutoPacific’s Vice President of Industry Analysis, Ed Kim,  has always had an affinity for small cars with a performance personality and a load of equipment.  Our recent week-long evaluation of the 2014 Kia Forte5 SX seems to fit his requirements.  The Forte5 SX is a front wheel drive five-door hatchback that provides a lot of utility for a small family.  Its useful interior package is wrapped in a very nice looking and sporty skin.

2014 Kia Forte5 IPTechnology Laden Interior Standard  The interior is full of Kia’s latest technology.  Standard are heated outside mirrors with mirror head mounted turn signal indicators, automatic light control, projector headlamps, LED fog lamps, LED positioning lights. LED taillamps, 18-inch alloy wheels.  Comfort and convenience features abound in the interior with standard AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio, UVO eServices Infotainment System, rear camera, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, cruise control, steering wheel controls, paddle shifters with automatic transmission, tilt and telescoping steering column, power windows/locks, air conditioning, leather wrapped steering wheel, the list goes on.

Advanced Powerful Engine  The Forte5 SX is powered by a 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cylinder engine with dual continuous variable valve timing and gasoline direct injection.  These engine specs place the SX model at the forefront of today’s advanced gasoline engine technology.  Given these engine specs, the SX has 201-horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque driving through the front wheels.

So, without any options, the Kia Forte5 with a six-speed automatic transmission goes for $20,900.

More Goodies Can be Added  If you want to spring for more technology, Kia has option packages that can provide it.  For an additional $2,200, a premium package is available that includes a sunroof, auto dimming rear view mirror with Homelink, leather seat trim, power driver’s seat, heat and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel.  Once you’ve popped for the Premium Package yo can decide to add the Technology Package that includes HID headlamps, 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster between the tach and speedometer, dual zone air conditioning and a navigation system.  That adds another $1,800 to the price.  Destination charges are another $800.

Fully Loaded – <$26,000  So for less than $26,000 you can get a fully loaded Forte5 SX.

2014 Kia Forte5 F342014 Kia Forte5 SX R34Spirited, Pleasant to Drive  OK, we’ve talked about the impressive equipment level and powertrain under the hood, but would the Forte5 SX live up to Ed Kim’s driving requirements.  Absolutely.  This is a fun to drive small car with “spritely” performance.  It rides well, has more-than-adequate power and acceleration and gets good fuel economy (21mpg city/29mpg highway).  Not bad at all.

How could this car be improved?  First, the interior is available only in black, so the tone of the environment is a bit dour.  There should be a light grey leather seat option with door trim panels to accent the seats.  The headliner should be light.  These changes would open up the interior to make the car seem more spacious.  That’s about it.  Upgrade the interior here and there and the Kia Forte5 SX is an even bigger winner than it already is.


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2015 Audi A3 – Pocket-Sized Luxury

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2015 Audi A3 Sedans Ready to GoAudi A8 in a Smaller Platform  For a car that is slightly smaller than the Honda Civic sedan and the Ford Focus sedan, the designed-for-America (and China) 2015 Audi A3 sedan comes across as a premium piece.  The A3 previously was a slow selling hatchback.  Now adding the three-box notchback with a trunk bodystyle Audi can substantially broaden its appeal in the USA.  For decades, American buyers have perceived hatchbacks to have less safety (less rear crash protection – a perception) and less security (from bad guys seeing into the cargo area and stealing what is there).  The sedan clears those negative perceptions and gives Audi a strong platform to build the bottom end of its brand.


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2013 Lincoln Motor Company MKZ: Little More Zest, Less Zzzzz

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The last time I drove an “entry level” luxury car that shared bones with some of Ford’s European DNA was my 2002 Jaguar X-Type 2.5 Sport with a manual transmission.  Haters can hate but I liked that car because it was more Ford than Jaguar.  Before the X-Type I had a 2001 Focus ZX3 and before that I had a Mercury Cougar.  The front-wheel drive one that was made in Michigan and exported to Europe.  Before that I had a 1996 Contour Zetec 5MT.  A 1999 SVT Contour was also in there somewhere.  Regardless, I’ve always been jealous of what Ford has offered in Europe.  I did what I could to get my hands on the closest thing to a European Ford, even if it wasn’t always the real deal.


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2013 Lexus LS460 – Welcome Facelift and F SPORT

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The Lexus Flagship – the LS460 4-door sedan – is freshened for the 2013 model year.  This comes after an all new Audi A8 in 2011, a tweaked 2012 BMW 7-Series, and the new Cadillac XTS (which may not be in this class).  A major change for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is due in early 2013 as a 2014 model year.  The Jaguar XJ that was all new in 2009 as a 2010 model gets a much needed all wheel drive system for 2013.

2013 Lexus LS460 F SPORT


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Audi Freshens 2012 A4 Ideal Vehicle Award Winners and Adds 2013 Allroad

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Audi has launched five models from its 2013 B8 platform – the A4, S4, A5, S5 and Allroad.  The B8 is a mild mid-cycle freshening of Audi’s line of compact sport sedans.  But first to the awards…

Audi A4 Wins AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award: Over one-third of new car and light truck buyers are influenced by awards their vehicle has won.  Owner-based awards are more valuable than most.  For the 2012 model year – the B7 platform – Audi swept AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Awards for the Aspirational Luxury Car Category.  Not only was the A4 the most ideal Aspirational Luxury Car as rated by its owners, the A5 was in second place and the next-step-up A6 was in third place in the category.  These are significant achievements.

In AutoPacific’s IVA research, 25% of A4 owners want more power and acceleration.  About 23% want more passenger room, 21% want easier ingress/ingress and 19% want more daring styling.

A4/S4/A5/S5 Evolve Very Nicely, Thank You: So, the question is whether or not the new 2013 cars have hit their target market as well as their recent predecessors, and do they offset the shortfalls mentioned above?  After a drive of the cars in Colorado during fire season, we can safely say the 2013 versions are equal to or better than the class-winners they replace.

The basic dimensions of the 2013 cars are identical to the 2012 cars.  The styling of the sedans and coupe is very evolutionary with minor styling changes.  Think of the exterior styling change as a moderate “front six inches” with new grille shape, headlamps and front fascia.  The grille has evolved with a more trapezoidal look.   Audi took advantage of this freshening to re-design its LED-accented headlamps and taillamps.  These cues have become a distinguishing Audi design feature. So, Audi did not push the styling envelope with this facelift but remained safe.  (About 80% of A4 owners find the styling of the 2012 model ideal).

The interior of the cars remains an outstanding reason to buy.  Great fit and finish combined with excellent materials selection.   There is a new three-spoke steering wheel, revised instrument cluster and Audi connect with Audi’s controller-based MMI Navigation system is ordered.

Just a Brief Note on Touchscreens and Controllers: The auto industry is all over the place relative to touchscreen navigation systems or controller-based nav-systems.  Audi (MMI), BMW (iDrive), and Mercedes (COMAND) have continued with controller-based systems as have others.  Many mainstream brands continue with touchscreens or have moved to them after wrestling with controller logic.  Oddly, Volkswagen and Porsche – VWAG family members – both use touchscreen systems now.  Volkswagen used a touchscreen and Porsche has moved from a controller-based system to a touchscreen.  Audi engineers say “you will never see a touchscreen in an Audi”.  They don’t like the fingerprints.  So, inside VWAG, the engineers have agreed to disagree.

New Allroad is the Big News: The big news for the B8 launch is the re-launch of the Audi Allroad.  The previous Allroad (1999-2005) was based on the larger Audi A6 and looked more aggressively off-road capable than the 2013 version based on the smaller B8-platform A4.  The Allroad replaces the slow selling Avant wagon in the American lineup with the body of the Avant tweaked to appear off-road capable.  Its ride-height is increased by 1.5-inches.   The expected wheel arch trim is there as are the front- and rear-skid plates.  A roof rack completes the appearance package.

Powertrains Essentially Carryover and Still Outstanding: The B8s are powered by a 211HP 2.0L turbocharged direct-injection 4-cylinder engine.  With Audi’s Quattro all wheel drive system, the 4-cylinder turbo is mated to either a 6-speed manual transmission or 8-speed automatic transmission.  If you select a front wheel drive S4, you get a CVT.  This 4-cylinder turbo engine has always been a delight to drive and is one of the world’s best-regarded engines.

If you want more oomph in the A4 and A5, move up to the V6-powered S4 and S5.  With the S4 and S5 you get a 3.0L supercharged direct-injection V6 engine with 333-horsepower.  Quattro is standard in the S4 and S5.  While the A4 is no slouch on the road or in the mountains, The S-Cars provide effortless performance in any situation.  This engine choice lets you think about a place in traffic you want to be and then without knowing it, you are miraculously there.

So, all in all, the Audi B8 experience is about what you would expect.  Great cars with evolutionary styling, super finesse and outstanding powertrains.


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MINI – Ideal Popular Brand in AutoPacific Research

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) for Popular Brands recognizes the brand whose vehicles best hits the targets its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

For 2012, MINI achieves the top ratings from its owners outpointing second place Popular Brand GMC by 31 rating points.  Owners of the MINI Cooper give the cheeky Premium Compact Car a dominating win in its category over the Subaru Impreza WRX.  The all new MINI Countryman outpoints second place Kia Sportage by 78 rating points.  MINI’s bold head-turning styling, combined with premium design cues and efficient, though small, packages yield an impressive score in AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award research.


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