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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 Lincoln Continental Replaces Lackluster MKS

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2016 Lincoln MKS

Source: teucy.com – 2016 Lincoln MKS

2017-lincoln-continental                                                      Source:  Lincoln.com – 2017 Lincoln Continental

The Lincoln MKS luxury sedan has not been an overwhelming success. Year to date through November 2016, the MKS sold less than 5,000 units. Lincoln dealers must be breathing a sigh of relief as its replacement, the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental, arrives at their dealerships. Already in 2016, the Continental has sold almost 3,500 units. The Continental is also out-selling the all-new 2017 Cadillac CT6. While the early sales results are promising, let’s see if the new Continental is an improvement over its predecessor.

Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation. In this case we will compare the 2016 Lincoln MKS with the MKS’ competitive set (Cadillac XTS, BMW 5-Series, Acura RLX, Audi A6, etc. – $50,000 to $70,000 mid-size luxury sedans). We will also provide AutoPacific’s evaluation of how much the 2017 Lincoln Continental will move the needle.

It becomes immediately obvious, however, that the owners of the MKS are much more traditional in their desires than the likely buyers of the all-new Continental. Compared with the competitive set, MKS owners are ten years older, less likely to be college educated and earn $50,000 less. About 76% of MKS owners are retired compared with 38% of the competitive set.

AutoPacific’s research shows that over 20% of MKS owners want more safety features (40%), technology that is easier to use (36%), better driver’s seat visibility (36%), more distinctive styling (34%), better ease of getting in and out (31%), improved roominess (27%) and better driver’s seat comfort (23%). AutoPacific’s assessment of the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental is that the new car will substantially improve the results for the car over the MKS. We predict that the owners of the 2017 Lincoln Continental will be a very satisfied bunch.

Here are the results of the major areas MKS owners want improved and our take on Continental compared with the outgoing MKS and its competitive set:

Source: AutoPacific - Changes Owners Want to 2016 Lincoln MKS

Source: AutoPacific – Changes Owners Want to 2016 Lincoln MKS

Safety Features: 40% of MKS owners want more safety features than now compared for 27% of the competitive set. The outgoing car has blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist available in an expensive technology package. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has the totally modern driver assistance suite available as well, but the features are more seamless in the new car and are available as a $3,100 Technology Package on the $54,000 Reserve model. This package includes: 360-degree camera, Active park assist, Lane-Keeping System, Lane-Keeping alert, Lane-Keeping aid, Driver Alert System, Adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision assist with Pedestrian Detection, Collision warning, Brake support, Active braking, Auto-dimming rearview mirror, Rain-sensing wipers and Windshield wiper de-icer. Unfortunately, the totally cool LED headlamps are only available as part of a $5,000 Luxury Package that also includes the $1,130 REVEL sound system. Egads! Does this mean the LED headlamps are $3,870?

Technology: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. Compared with the competitive set, the older Lincoln MKS buyer is much more likely to want technology that is easier to use (36% compared with 18%). The MKS uses Lincoln’s much-maligned MyLincoln Touch infotainment system that was glitchy and difficult to use. The 2017 Lincoln Continental uses the new Sync 3 system that is much easier to use and has includes Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. The new system is much more intuitive, faster, and seems more stable. We wish Lincoln had adopted a larger center stack screen mounted higher in the center of the vehicle. Also, the gray tones Lincoln uses in its graphics are difficult to see because the contrast is subtle. It would be much more satisfying if more vivid colors were used.

The Continental’s instrument cluster is reconfigurable and can provide an overwhelming amount of information or a very simple amount of data. AutoPacific’s complaint with the instrument cluster is that it cannot be made bright enough to see clearly on days with heavy sun loads.

Driver’s Seat Visibility: About 36% of MKS owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 22% for the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has good forward visibility, but the visibility to the sides is restricted by the high passenger seat back and headrest and the rear sail panel. The backlite is relatively high and rear seat headrests restrict visibility. The Continental is likely competitive, but not better than its competitors.

Styling: About a third of MKS owners want more distinctive styling. Only about 20% of the competitive set want more distinctive styling. While some criticize the 2017 Lincoln Continental as looking too much like the Bentley Flying Spur, the Lincoln certainly has more presence than its predecessor. We believe the 2017 Continental will be judged as distinctive or more distinctive than its facing competition in next year’s research.

Ease of Getting In and Out: As a person gets older flexibility becomes a challenge. About 31% of the older MKS buyers want the car to be easier to get in and out of. This compares with 23% of the competitive set. The new 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very fast A-Pillar which could interfere with head clearance when getting into the vehicle. The A-Pillar is pushed forward enough that this should not be a problem with the new car. Continental is at least on a par with its competitive set.

Roominess: About 27% of MKS owners want more passenger roominess compared with 22% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very spacious seating package. Its rear seat is very luxurious and accommodating especially with the $4,300 Rear Seat Package. Since Lincoln is making a concerted effort to sell the Continental in China where it likely will be driven by a chauffeur instead of the owner, the Rear Seat Package is very important. Cosseting the Chinese CEO in the rear seat is what this package is designed to do. Overall, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is more than competitive in terms of passenger roominess.

Driver’s Seat Comfort: About 23% of MKS owners want a more relaxed driver’s seat compared with 10% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental evaluated by AutoPacific had Lincoln’s 30-way power seats. Like many features with multiple adjustments, you can adjust it to any position but great. Several AutoPacific staffers loved the adjustability of the seats and especially the adjustable left and right leg thigh support. Starting with the default position may be result in the best overall seat feel. The new Continental’s seat firmness may be a bit too stiff for the traditional Lincoln buyer.

Engine Power: While MKS owners do not particularly want more power or better fuel economy, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is available with powertrain selections that would satisfy almost any type of driver. The base engine is a 305-horsepower 3.7L double overhead cam V6. The mid-level engine is a 335-horsepower 2.7L turbo V6. The top engine is a 400-horsepower 3.0L twin turbo V6. For a company that used to provide only one engine per vehicle, the choices offered are excellent. Driving the all-wheel drive 400-horsepower Continental can be an exhilarating experience.

 

 


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Trump Wins – VehicleVoice Predicted Election Winner in February 2016

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Trump Wins - Campaign Logo

Trump wins predicted by VehicleVoice survey

Trump Wins  In February 2016, AutoPacific fielded a VehicleVoice survey to see how the 2016 Presidential Election would fare.

Ten months ago, VehicleVoice panel members predicted that Donald Trump would win the Presidency.  To refresh your memory, here are the results:

Trump Wins Overall  Among the presidential candidates of any party, Donald Trump is the top preference (24%), followed by Hillary Clinton (18%), Bernie Sanders (17%), Ted Cruz (9%), and Marco Rubio (7%).  The remaining candidates are all under 5% with Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina having pulled out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.

Brand Owners Most Likely to Select…  The owners of brands most likely to select Donald Trump are GMC (31%), Mitsubishi (31%), Scion (30%), Ford (25%), Jeep (25%), Buick (25%), and Cadillac (25%).  No FIAT owners would prefer Trump.  The brands most likely to select Hillary Clinton are Mercedes-Benz (25%), Infiniti (25%), Tesla (25%), BMW (24%), Cadillac (24%).  The brands most likely to select Bernie Sanders are FIAT (44%), MINI (41%), Tesla (35%), Volvo (32%), Mazda (28%), Volkswagen (28%), Scion (27%), Subaru (27%), Toyota (25%).

Trump Profile  Vehicle owners who prefer Donald Trump are likely to own domestic mainstream brands.  About 57% have a college education and about 36% have a household income over $100,000.  Contrary to other surveys, Trump does well among the youngest vehicle owners capturing about 33% aged 18-29 years old.   The lowest preference for Trump is among vehicle owners in their 30s at 15%.  All other age groups prefer Trump in the 22%-28% range.

Clinton Profile  Brands with stronger preference for Hillary Clinton tend to be luxury brands.  About 76% have a college degree and about 45% have a household income over $100,000.  Preference for Clinton by age group is strongest among the 60-69 age group with 22% preferring Clinton – about equal to Trump in that age group.  Lowest preference for Clinton is among the youngest with just 9% of the 18-29 year old group preferring her.

It is uncanny that so far in advance this relatively unsophisticated VehicleVoice poll of vehicle owners in the United States could predict the overall winner of the 2016 Presidential contest.  At the time, these results seemed like an out-lier.  In the final analysis, the results were very telling.


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AutoPacific 2016 Ideal Vehicle Award

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AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle AwardAutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers annually to determine how satisfied they are with their vehicle and what changes they want made.  Based on this owner research, AutoPacific calculates the vehicles that owners want changed the least.  The people who have purchased the vehicle are the people it was designed for.  The data result in the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award.  Every year there are some results that stand out.  The 2016 awards are no different.  Here are some highlights:

•  The top brand overall is Tesla – a one car brand at the time of the research, but that one car is on target with its buyers.  The Tesla Model S is the top ranked Luxury Car.

•  The top popular brand is GMC – for the third year in a row.

•  The most ideal vehicle, overall, is the Volvo XC70.

•  Subaru swept the crossover SUV categories in which it competes with the Outback winning the Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV category, the Forester winning the Mid-Size SUV category and the Crosstrek winning the Compact Crossover SUV category.  That is a very impressive sweep.

Multiple year winners include:

•  Jeep Grand Cherokee – winning the last six years in a row

•  Volkswagen Golf – winning the last three years in a row and six of the last ten years

•  Chevrolet Colorado – for the second year in a row

•  Subaru Outback – for the second year in a row

•  Subaru Forester – for the second year in a row

That Tesla has won so early in its lifetime is a testament to its planning, design and engineering teams.  Maybe Tesla does not have the bureaucracy that bogs down bigger companies and allows it to effectively target the affluent buyers of its first vehicle.

Jeep has been fine-tuning the Grand Cherokee since the early 1990s.  The fact that it has won the Ideal Vehicle Award for six years in a row shows that Jeep really does know what Grand Cherokee owners want.

The string of Ideal Vehicle Awards won by the Volkswagen Golf over the past ten years is impressive.

Finally, Subaru has solved the equation of successful small and mid-size crossover SUVs.  Subaru sales have been steadily increasing and the Ideal Vehicle Award wins show the company understands crossover SUVs.  Of course their “LOVE” advertising and dog-centric messages don’t hurt either.


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Car Owners Select Trump Over Other Candidates

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Vote ImageThis article was posted in Forbes.com blog, Friday, February 19, 2016 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgepeterson1/2016/02/19/car-owners-select-trump/#6e8407941b81).

“Just the facts, ma’am”, said Joe Friday.  Here are the results from a 1,100 respondent AutoPacific national internet survey asking vehicle owners what their political leanings are and who they would prefer for President come November.

The poll is not overwhelmingly scientific.  It does not look at preferences based on political affiliation or likelihood to vote.  It simply asks who they would prefer for President and does show some very interesting results.

Political Leanings  What are the political leanings of car (and truck) owners?  About 36% describe themselves as Independent with Ford (33%), Toyota (30%), Honda (24%), Chevrolet (20%) and Subaru (20%) the brands most likely to identify as Independent.  About 34% describe themselves as Republican with Ford (27%), Toyota (23%), Chevrolet (19%) the top three.  About 25% describe themselves as Democrat with Toyota (30%), Honda (23%) and Subaru (17%) the top three.  Libertarians account for about 5% of the sample with Toyota (35%), Ford (31%), Honda (23%), Chevrolet (23%) as their top four brands.

The most “Republican” brands are Lexus (45%), GMC (43%), Infiniti (39%), Jeep (36%), and Audi (36%).  The most “Democrat” brands are Tesla (37%), Fiat (35%), and Land Rover (32%)

Trump Wins Overall  Among the presidential candidates of any party, Donald Trump is the top preference (24%), followed by Hillary Clinton (18%), Bernie Sanders (17%), Ted Cruz (9%), and Marco Rubio (7%).  The remaining candidates are all under 5% with Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina having pulled out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.

Brand Owners Most Likely to Select…  The owners of brands most likely to select Donald Trump are GMC (31%), Mitsubishi (31%), Scion (30%), Ford (25%), Jeep (25%), Buick (25%), and Cadillac (25%).  No FIAT owners would prefer Trump.  The brands most likely to select Hillary Clinton are Mercedes-Benz (25%), Infiniti (25%), Tesla (25%), BMW (24%), Cadillac (24%).  The brands most likely to select Bernie Sanders are Fiat (44%), MINI (41%), Tesla (35%), Volvo (32%), Mazda (28%), Volkswagen (28%), Scion (27%), Subaru (27%), Toyota (25%).

Trump Profile  Those vehicle owners who prefer Donald Trump are likely to own domestic mainstream brands.  About 57% have a college education and about 36% have a household income over $100,000.  Contrary to other surveys Trump does well among the youngest vehicle owners capturing about 33% aged 18-29 years old.   The lowest preference for Trump is among vehicle owners in their 30s at 15%.  All other age groups prefer Trump in the 22%-28% range.

Clinton Profile  Brands with stronger preference for Hillary Clinton tend to be luxury brands.  About 76% have a college degree and about 45% have a household income over $100,000.  Preference for Clinton by age group is strongest among the 60-69 age group with 22% preferring Clinton – about equal to Trump in that age group.  Lowest preference for Clinton is among the youngest with just 9% of the 18-29 year old group preferring her.

Sanders Profile  Bernie Sanders attracts both mainstream and luxury brands.  The owner profile of these brands suggest a more liberal mindset. About 60% have a college degree and about 35% have a household income over $100,000.  Strongest preference for Sanders is among 30-39 year olds (26%), among 18-29 year olds (21%) and among 40-49 year olds (21%).  This confirms Sanders preference among younger vehicle owners.

There are many polls being cited during these early weeks of a long, long election cycle.  Results are all over the map with Trump generally on top for the Republican nomination followed by Ted Cruz.  In the race for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders is putting up a surprisingly strong anti-establishment fight.  It will be interesting to refer back to these results in November to see who will be our next President.  If the vote were held today among owners of cars and trucks, the winner would be Trump by a narrow margin.


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AutoPacific 2015 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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Owners rate Kia K900 top car, Ford F-150 top truck. Tesla Top Brand

TUSTIN, Calif. (July 8, 2015) – AutoPacific today announced its 19th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs), identifying the most satisfying vehicles on the market. An industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new vehicle, VSAs are based on survey responses from over 66,000 owners of new 2015 model year cars and light trucks.

“2015 represents a year of diversity,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Competition is fierce and no one automaker dominates the results.” The 2015 winners are spread across nearly every manufacturer, with wins by 9 out of 11 automakers. General Motors receives the most wins with 5, followed by Kia and Nissan, with 4 and 3 wins, respectively. Honda, Toyota, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobile), Volkswagen and Ford follow with 2 wins each. Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai each take home 1 win.

“For the 2015 model year, there are 274 models and 33 brands from which to choose a new vehicle,” says Peterson. “It can be daunting for consumers to sort through all of those options and try to predict which one will work best for them in the long run. AutoPacific VSAs help to give them a strong starting point.”

The average VSA score for 2015 is 25-points higher than in 2014 confirming products and customer handling are improving markedly. The brands with the greatest year-over-year improvements are Jaguar – improving eleven positions; Volkswagen – improving ten positions; Ford – improving nine positions.

The Kia K900 – Kia’s range topping luxury car – set an all time high and wins AutoPacific’s President’s Award. This award is given only when the overall score tops the previous high score. Interestingly, the all-new aluminum bodied Ford F-150 would have won this award if the Kia was not in the running.  The previous President’s Award winners were the 2014 Mercedes S-Class and the 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

Korean Manufacturers Take Over Top Spot in Satisfaction

Tesla, a domestic brand with only one vehicle, is the top scoring brand overall.  General Motors’ GMC division is the top scoring mainstream brand.  In aggregate, Korean brands are the top source of high scoring vehicles.  With 5 winning vehicles, including the top ranking Kia K900, Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai come out on top in combined average score, taking over the position previously held by European manufacturers. “Kia and Hyundai are continually improving owner satisfaction in key areas like reliability and quality, yet are also hitting the mark with safety, braking, handling, styling and seat comfort, not to mention a very satisfying warranty program,” explains Peterson.

AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance.

“In many cases, an extremely satisfying vehicle is not the car or truck that has the best absolute build quality or the best safety rating,” says Peterson. “VSAs look at the big picture, which includes owners’ experiences with their vehicle’s quality and safety, but also goes deeper into the heart of the ownership experience.”

Brand SummaryVehicle Summary

About AutoPacific

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

Contacts

Dan Hall dan.hall@autopacific.com 714.838.4234


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Owners Rate Most Fun to Drive Cars

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Fun to drive can be defined an infinite number of ways.  The sports car driver will say power and acceleration, braking and handling are the main contributors to fun to drive.  There is also the element of sexy head-turning styling ringing the sports car driver’s bell.  The sport utility driver will add functionality to that equation.  A smart fortwo driver may think its quirky styling, minuscule size (even with its funky transmission) add to the fun to drive experience.

The most fun to drive vehicles in AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Satisfaction Research – those with 85 % or more of their drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics include:

2014 Chevrolet SS1.  Chevrolet SS:  We can certainly understand this one.  Fully loaded 4-door sedan with a Corvette V8, the SS is a great value and adds sedan functionality to a high performance platform.  Not a big seller, the SS buyer certainly understands the special car they are driving.  One hundred percent of the respondents were totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette2.  Chevrolet Corvette:  Corvette is the quintessential American sports car.  Big with dramatic styling and powered by a large displacement push-rod V8, the Corvette not only has the dynamics for a fun to drive winner, but also the looks.

 

2014 Porsche Cayman3. Porsche Cayman:  Curvaceous styling with Porsche DNA, German precision and sprightly dynamics have 94% of Cayman drivers totally satisfied with the fun to drive of their car.

 

 

2014 Porsche Panamera4.  Porsche Panamera:  The most expensive of the fun to drive vehicles is the Porsche Panamera 4-door sedan with 93% of its owners totally satisfied.  Sometimes criticized for its ungainly looks, it checks the boxes for fun to drive.  Panamera is in the top ten in power and acceleration.  Panamera is top ranked for braking. Panamera is in the top five for handling.  Not bad for such a large car.

2014 smart fortwo5.  smart fortwo:  There are fifteen cars that score 85% or higher in fun to drive.  Surprising is one of them is the smart fortwo with 92% of its drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  Acceleration and powertrain performance clearly are not strong suits for the fortwo.  Only 28% of fortwo owners are totally satisfied with power and acceleration, so there are other things contributing to its fun to drive.  Maybe it is handling? – 72% are totally satisfied with its handling.  Maybe getting good fuel economy is a contributor? – 76% are totally satisfied with fuel economy.  Maybe just fortwo’s quirky styling just puts a smile on their face?

2014 Porsche Boxster6.  Porsche Boxster:  The first of the “baby” Porsche entries has sometimes been called a chick’s car, and maybe it is if you watched the episode of Two and a Half Men where Alan buys one, but its owners 91% of its owners are totally satisfied with how fun to drive it is.  Owners rate the Boxster in the top ten of totally satisfied with power and acceleration, braking, and handling – all strong contributors to fun to drive.

2015 Nissan 370Z Coupe7.  Nissan 370Z:  A “classic” sports car, 90% of Z-Car owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes.  It is in the top ten in power and acceleration, but comes up shy in handling ranking 12th and poorly in braking where it ranks 53rd.

2014 Jaguar F-Type8.  Jaguar F-Type:  Jag’s new sports car entry has 90% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  F-Type is in the top ten in power and acceleration, 11th in braking and 25th in handling.  Clearly, F-Types powertrain strongly contributes to its fun to drive and combined with its classic styling owners score the car very strongly.

2014 Subaru BRZ9.  Subaru BRZ:  The BRZ may be a new category of sporty coupe.  It is built to be extremely maneuverable and fun for a young person.  Small, rear wheel drive, and with the ability to drift around corners, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  In the case of the BRZ, its power and acceleration does not deliver on its looks or fun to drive image.  Only 30% of BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking it 225th.  About 56% BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its braking.  Where BRZ shines is in handling with 84% of its owners totally satisfying.  It appears that Subaru could improve the standing of the BRZ if engine power was increased substantially.

2014 Chevrolet Camaro10.  Chevrolet Camaro:  A classic American muscle car, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes.  Camaro ranks 17th in power and acceleration with 73% totally satisfied.  It ranks 18th in braking with 77% of its owners totally satisfied.  Camaro ranks 10th in handling.  These are solid results for a sporty coupe showing Camaro succeeds not only on the basis of its iconic image and styling, but also on dynamics.

2014 Ford Mustang11.  Ford Mustang: The outgoing Mustang still has a lot going it with 88% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  Mustang owners rank its power and acceleration 28th with 68% totally satisfied.  Mustang falls to 95th in braking with 65% totally satisfied.  It is 55th in handling with 71% totally satisfied.  Clearly, style, image and reputation have gone a long way in contributing to Mustang’s position among fun to drive cars.

2014 MINI Paceman12.  MINI Paceman:  The wierdly styled MINI Paceman is totally fun to drive for about 88% of its owners.  46% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking 156th, other MINI entries rank substantially higher.  About 67% of its owners are totally satisfied with its braking ranking 52nd.  About 75% of owners are totally satisfied with its handling – 27th.  Head-turning styling and image strongly contribute to the fun to drive aura of the MINI Paceman.

2014 Mazda Miata13.  Mazda Miata:  Miatas, or MX-5s, are famous for how fun to drive they are.  About 86% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes.  Miata is not supposed to be blindingly fast it is supposed to be fun and most owners recognize that.  Still, ranking 109th, 53% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration.  About 68% are totally satisfied with its braking – 48th.  About 64% are totally satisfied with its handling – 29th.

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO14.  Mitsubishi Lancer EVO:  The last Lancer EVO ranks 14th in fun to drive with 85% of its owners totally satisfied.  Generally, a car sold for its performance never lives up to the expectations of its owners in power and acceleration, but the EVO seems to be an exception.  About 71% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration – ranking 22nd.  About 78% are totally satisfied with braking – 13th.  About 78% are totally satisfied with handling – 15th.  This is a pretty good all-around performance for dynamic attributes.  Sayonara EVO, you will be missed.

2014 Scion FR-S15.  Scion FR-S: The FR-S is the Scion version of the Subaru BRZ.  About 85% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  Like the BRZ, FR-S owners want more power and acceleration – only 33% are totally satisfied – ranked 222nd.  About 52% are totally satisfied with its braking – ranking 178th.  About 73% of FR-S owners are totally satisfied with its handling – that is what the car is designed for after all – ranking 37th.

Top Ten Fun to Drive Brands:  The ranking of brands includes the fun to drive results for all their entries.  The top ten brands are:  1) Porsche, 2) MINI, 3) BMW, 4) Audi, 5) Jaguar, 6) Fiat, 7) Scion, 8) Cadillac, 9) Lincoln, 10) Mercedes-Benz.


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Manual Transmission RIP – Let ’em Die

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We keep watching the hand wringing of automotive enthusiasts (of which we are a member) about the manual transmission fading from the American vehicle fleet.  In fact, in 2010 our friends at Car and Driver created a Facebook page entitled “Save the Manuals” moaning about the “paucity” of manual transmissions offered in new vehicles.  The latest issue of Car and Driver continues to advertise the site.  At a recent new model introduction, a wizened old auto journalist railed on about how the car maker was killing the manual transmission.  They were not offering one on the higher priced models of the car.  Well, as experienced as he may be, he is out of touch.

Over the years, we have been proponents of automatics especially since they have become so efficient.  Based on AutoPacific research we have the data.  Here are the tidbits from the latest year’s survey (the data have changed only slightly year over year):Manual Transmission Shifter

81% of New Vehicle Acquirers Can Drive a Vehicle With a Manual Transmission  Frankly, we thought this number would be much smaller.  For the sake of their ego maybe these respondents claim they can drive a manual when they actually cannot or do so very poorly.  About 89% of men and 68% of women claim they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.  By age group, 52% of respondents in their 20s and 71% of those in their 30s say they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.  Over 40 years of age, over 85% say they can drive a manual.  We are surprised that so many in their 20s and 30s claim they can drive a manual.

94% Want an Automatic in Their Next Vehicle  81% of the respondents say they want an automatic transmission in their next vehicle.  About 14% say they want an automatic with paddle shifters.  Only 5% want a manual transmission.Automatic Transmission Shifter

Highest Preference for Manual Transmissions are in Sports and Compact Cars  About 20% of sporty car (Camaro/Mustang) owners want a manual in their next vehicle.  About 13% of sports car owners (Porsche 911, Corvette) want a manual transmission.  About 11% of compact car owners want a manual transmission.  The sports and sporty car owners want a manual because they perceive the manual gives them a more sporty driving experience and better control over the car.  Compact car owners perceive that a manual will give them better fuel economy and also a lower price.  We might have thought pickup truck owners would want a manual transmission but this is not the case.  Only 5% of pickup owners want a manual transmission in their next vehicle.

Manuals to Fade Away  In many press events AutoPacific attends, members of the automotive press continue to argue for more manual transmissions to be added to newly introduced vehicles.  This is contrary to what the people who actually buy cars want.  While there will be some bitching and moaning from the media, automakers should save their resources and concentrate on making outstanding automatics and dropping manuals in the future.Paddle Shifter

Sidenote on Paddle Shifters  Manufacturers have been adding paddle shifters to automatics to give a sportier ambiance.  In AutoPacific research over the years, we have found that drivers might use this feature for the first couple of weeks they have their vehicle.  Then they never use paddle shifters again.  While implementing paddle shifters is now an inexpensive proposition, it still might not be worth the trip.


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Auto Brands and Political Persuasion

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Logo SlideWith the mid-term elections coming in November, AutoPacific thought it would be interesting to see which auto brands leaned to the left or right.  An internet survey was conducted in July, 2014 to identify the political persuasion of drivers who would consider brands sold in the United States.  Each respondent identified whether they were aligned with the following political categories:  Communist, Socialist, Democrat, Green, Independent, Libertarian, Republican, Constitution, and Tea Party.  These were sorted into Liberal, Independent and Conservative.  The Liberal grouping includes Communist, Socialist, Democrat and Green.  Independent is Independent.  The Conservative grouping includes Libertarian, Republican, Constitution and Tea Party.

VV Slide Political PersuasionPre-Conceived Notions About Brands and Politics  Years ago, AutoPacific asked the political persuasion question in a survey.  The responses from many were rude, to say the least.  Now with the Internet it seems folks are more willing to share their leanings.

You might expect that there were some notions about the brands in our heads when we started this exercise.  Are Volvo and Subaru the ultimate Liberal brands?  Are Lincoln and Cadillac the most Conservative?  Which brands appeal to people who consider themselves Independent?  Are Tesla considerers Green?  Go below the fold to find out.


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2014 Chevrolet Impala Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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mm_gal_item_c2_1.img_resize.img_stage._2General Motors is turning out some darn good cars these days and the 2014 Chevrolet Impala is a good example.  The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the highest scoring Large Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The Impala designers, planners and engineers understood who the target buyer is and developed a vehicle that meets their requirements. The 2014 Impala beat out some very impressive competitors in the Large Car category, such as the Hyundai Azera, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, and the Toyota Avalon.  George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, says, “When we first saw the new Impala we were impressed with the car’s presence and top-notch execution.  Clearly, Impala owners agree and give it AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award for 2014.”

Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle questionnaire, the Chevrolet Impala led in five satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points of another three.

The top five highest ratings by 2014 Impala owners are: same exterior styling, same cargo space, same interior lighting, same passenger room, and the same wheels as now.

No vehicle is perfect. Impala owners would like to see better driver seat visibility, more power and acceleration, and simpler technology that is easier to use.

AutoPacificIVA Feature copy


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