Since this is the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, a rocket analogy is appropriate to illustrate the importance of a new-vehicle launch to automakers. The flubbed launch of a new car is about as easy to correct as a flubbed rocket launch. One can no more relaunch an automotive vehicle than a space vehicle once it has left the pad.
In the launch of its own new product, J.D. Power & Company says the company that did it best last year was Hyundai, with its first luxury vehicle, the Genesis. Other winners were Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan.
The firm's inaugural Vehicle Launch Index, which quantified how well new and redesigned vehicles do in the first eight months post-launch (whether they make orbit or, metaphorically, splash and sink into the Atlantic) looks at things like vehicle revenue, dealer gross profit, incentives, residual value and the credit quality of buyers to rank automakers.
It also looks at vehicle quality and design, based on the Initial Quality Study. To be considered, brands have to have sold at least 5,000 units in the first eight months and be either all-new or major redesigns.
Among the 27 vehicles rated in the study, the Ford F-150 pickup truck came in second and Volkswagen's Tiguan SUV came in third.
Among the 12 models that did better than industry average, Nissan, Honda, Ford and Volkswagen each had two; Dodge, Subaru, Mazda and Hyundai had one each.
Following Tiguan were Nissan Maxima, Subaru Forester, Honda Pilot, Ford Flex, Honda Fit, Dodge Challenger, VW Passat CC, Nissan Murano and Mazda 6.
The vehicle deemed worst launch was Toyota's Matrix.
The firm says that in addition to obvious factors like attractive design, good performance, ease of operation and function, a successful vehicle launch must also involve the right volume and pricing, and product mix.
The Westlake Village, Calif.-based firm says automakers will spend some $50 billion to conduct 205 vehicle launches in the U.S. in the next three years. Among those, 80 will be completely new entries, 52 will be "all new" versions of current models and 73 will be major redesigns.