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Published: Friday, 7/16/2010

Ford, Chevy help U.S. outperform foreign cars

BLOOMBERG NEWS SERVICE

Ford Motor Co.'s Taurus and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Camaro helped U.S. automakers outperform imported vehicles for the first time since 1997 in J.D. Power & Associates' annual study of vehicle appeal.

Ford vehicles topped five segments, the most of any brand in the researcher's report released Thursday.

Toyota Motor Corp., which recalled 8 million vehicles globally in the past year for defects linked to unintended acceleration, received the second-lowest ranking for its namesake brand.

Vehicles with high scores in consumer appeal generate faster sales and higher profit margins and need fewer sales incentives and less marketing, said Dave Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research for J.D. Power, with headquarters in Westlake Village, Calif.

"If you have an appealing product, customers will pay more for it," Mr. Sargent said.

"It's a culmination of a lot of work the domestics have done in launching new or heavily redesigned products."

The Taurus, Fusion, Expedition, Flex, and Explorer Sport Trac all won categories for Ford. The Taurus and GM's Chevrolet Avalanche were the only vehicles to win their segments in vehicle appeal and last month's initial quality survey, J.D. Power said.

GM models won three segments, and the Detroit automaker's Buick brand was the highest-rated mass-market nameplate in the overall rankings, according to J.D. Power. Camaro won the midsize sporty-car category.

The study is based on responses gathered between February and May from more than 76,000 buyers or lessees of 2010 models who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

Respondents were asked about more than 80 attributes, including styling, power, and interior design.

Toyota was the second-lowest-ranked overall as the result of negative attention over the company's recalls and its reputation of making practical cars that generate little excitement, Mr. Sargent said.

Chrysler Group LLC's namesake brand and Jeep division also finished in the bottom three in appeal. Jeep finished lowest, in part because its parent firm lacks new products, a situation that hurt appeal across its brands, Mr. Sargent said.

Jeep's redesigned Grand Cherokee, which began shipping in June, is the first major new model Chrysler has introduced since Fiat SpA took control of the company after its 2009 bankruptcy.



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