Our Bureau

New Delhi, Dec. 20

NEW-vehicle buyers' delight with their vehicles continued to improve for the seventh consecutive year, according to the J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2005 India Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) StudySM, released on Tuesday.

In fact, 12 out of the 21 models covered in both 2004 and 2005 studies show improvement in their APEAL scores.

Two Maruti models top APEAL segment rankings. Maruti Wagon R ranks highest in the reclassified compact car segment and is closely followed by the Maruti Alto and the Hyundai Santro, respectively. Maruti Esteem ranks highest in the entry midsize car segment, and is closely followed by the Ford Ikon and Opel Corsa/Swing.

"The compact and entry midsize segments together account for more than 50 per cent of industry sales volumes," said Mr Mohit Arora, India director at J.D. Power Asia Pacific. "These segments therefore witness intense competition, resulting in all manufacturers in the segment working to continuously upgrade their product offerings."

The Honda City ranks highest in the midsize segment for a third consecutive year. Hyundai Accent and Maruti Baleno, respectively, follow the City in the segment rankings.

Repeating its segment-leading performance in the 2005 India Initial Quality Study, Skoda Octavia ranks highest in the premium midsize segment in APEAL. The re-launched Octavia also emerges as the most improved model in the industry. Toyota Corolla ranks second, followed by Chevrolet Optra.

"The Octavia sets the industry benchmark in six of the eight factor areas composing APEAL," said Mr Arora. "Greater owner delight leads to greater advocacy of the product. The Skoda Octavia demonstrates this fact, with the highest percentage of customers who are inclined to recommend their model to others."

The recently launched Toyota Innova ranks highest in the utility vehicle super-segment, which is composed of MUVs, SUVs, MPVs and vans. The Innova is followed in the segment ranking by Mahindra Scorpio and Maruti Omni, respectively.

The 2005 India APEAL study is based on responses from more than 4,500 new vehicle owners covering 12 makes and 35 models, and includes customers who purchased their vehicles between January and July this year. Eight categories of vehicle styling, design and performance are measured to assess owners' delight at two to six months of ownership.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 21, 2005)
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