While low maintenance costs and the overall reliability factor have been major areas of focus with vehicle rating agencies here in India, it appears that new-vehicle satisfaction is increasingly being driven by its interiors as per data released in a recent J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2012 India Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. The India APEAL Study now in its 14th year based on feedback from umpteen new car owners in the country was able to assess their satisfaction levels during the first two months of ownership.
Performance data across categories like the vehicle’s exteriors , interiors (storage and space; audio, entertainment, navigation, seats, heating, ventilation and air conditioning), driving safety and fuel economy was collated as an index score based on a 1,000-point scale, with a higher score indicating higher satisfaction.
What surfaced as result of this study was that during the past four years, the impact of the vehicle interior on overall satisfaction has increased consistently, particularly in the two fastest-growing vehicle segments in India - small car (which includes entry compact, compact and premium compact cars) and utility vehicles (which includes MUV/ MPVs, SUVs and vans).
However, visibility and driving safety, followed by fuel economy, continue to be the leading drivers of satisfaction among new-vehicle owners in India. The interior factor has experienced a 28-point improvement compared with 2009, and an 8-point improvement over 2011.
Commenting on the development as declared in the 2012 study results, Mohit Arora, Executive Director, J.D. Power Asia Pacific said, “To improve the quality and aesthetics of their models, automakers have made significant efforts and investments to enhance the overall design and quality of the vehicle interior, even in the small car segment.”
However it was not just the vehicle interiors that have moved up the points table as compared to previous years, but also the industry as a whole, with satisfaction levels continuing to be higher among diesel vehicle owners in the country.
Model Results by Segment
• The Chevrolet Spark and Maruti Suzuki Estilo rank highest in a tie in the compact car segment with a score of 837 each. The Chevrolet Spark performs particularly well in the audio, entertainment, navigation and driving dynamics categories, while the Maruti Suzuki Estilo performs particularly well in seats.
• The Maruti Suzuki Swift DZire ranks highest in the entry midsize car segment for a fifth consecutive year, with a score of 841.
• The Maruti Suzuki SX4 and the Nissan Sunny rank highest in a tie in the midsize car segment with 853 points each. Both models perform particularly well in the storage and space and HVAC categories.
• The Honda Jazz ranks highest in the premium compact car segment with a score of 866 index points and performs well across all 10 categories.
• Toyota leads the utility vehicle segments, as the Innova ranks highest in the MUV/ MPV segment for a sixth consecutive year, with a score of 872, while the Fortuner ranks highest in the SUV segment with a score of 877, which is the highest APEAL score in the study.
• The 2012 India APEAL Study is based on responses from more than 8,000 owners who purchased a new vehicle between November 2011 and July 2012. The study was fielded between May and September 2012 in 25 cities across India.