Wait a Second Before You Invest Any More Energy in J.D. Power

There’s a considerable need for independent research and analysis, especially when it comes to cars.
But I have something to tell you about J.D. Power and Associate’s annual Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout study: it’s remarkably flawed.

The annual survey — alongside most other annual surveys — serves as a stump from which automakers proudly proclaim, “We’re the best, see? These guys just said so.”
But the APEAL survey, alongside J.D. Power and Associate’s Initial Quality Survey, give a distorted glimpse at the reality of buying a car.
They have no perception of cost. And that’s a big, big problem.
If you could afford a new Porsche, how satisfied with that purchase will you be in 90 days, when seemingly nothing expensive has gone wrong? What about 4 years later when warranties start to wane, and regular maintenance includes parts like a notoriously fussy internal oil separator that runs $2,000 to fix? Rear calipers that run $3,000? Or a $523.50 oil change? That Porsche you purchased may not be all that appealing anymore, I’m guessing, regardless of the awards J.D. Power can heap upon the company.
(Even further, I’m guessing the buyer who can drop $100,000 on a sports car is the type of buyer that can ditch that car for another sports car in three years and report that they’re pleased as punch again with the purchase.)
Meanwhile, if your bought-on-a-budget Toyota Corolla lugged your soul-crushing commute to work at 7 a.m., how stoked are you on that purchase 90 days — or even 90 minutes — after walking off the lot? I bought a new toaster last week and I wasn’t jazzed about it before I checked out at the register.
There needs to be a dose of reality when viewing these surveys. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover all topped the list of initial appeal, but also topped Forbes’ list of most expensive cars to fix.
It makes sense. Really expensive cars are really nice. Really nice, expensive cars are also really complicated. I know, because I drive them all the time. An S-Class is more appealing than a Toyota Yaris because Mercedes-Benz makes really nice cars that cost a lot of money.
To say that Porsches have more appeal than Subarus is a no brainer; I don’t need 77 attributes with a verified score out of 1,000 to say that a big house with a rollercoaster looks better than a small house with a leaking basement. But I can only afford one of those.
But I do need a study that reliably and logically presents their ownership, maintenance, resale proportional to budget. Average MSRP and cost of ownership don’t factor into the J.D. Power survey.
That’s not to say Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar or Audi make bad cars. J.D. Power just makes a narrow study that’s contorted way beyond its intent or measure.
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