Strategic Vision's new Total Value Index study finds that innovation is driving how consumers feel about the auto brands they buy. The study, which looks at over 350 cars and trucks owned by 77,000 people, gives a snapshot of how consumers feel, per dollar spent, about how much of a value they are getting from their vehicles. And the most important parameter is innovation.
Consumers feel Hyundai and Kia are especially good at that, particularly when it comes to how the cars look. The Hyundai Equus luxury car is the highest scoring model in the study. The firm says Kia Sportage and Sorento models also lead their respective segments. Other brands that did well were Volkswagen and sibling Audi, which had strong capability and "fun-to-drive" scores. BMW and MINI were good in sporty auto segments like coupe and premium roadster.
Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision, tells Marketing Daily that innovation isn't just about technology, but also defined by styling and performance. "With Hyundai, it’s styling; with Volkswagen, it’s the sporty feel and TDI [diesel] technology," he says, adding that styling is the strongest driver of innovation. "We see style as having a huge impact on perception, especially with vehicles like [Hyundai] Elantra and Sonata. It's a look that is more up-to-date, what the next generation of vehicles should look like."
Edwards says "functional luxury technology" is the second-most powerful driver for ownership and consideration. "It seems luxurious but also fits a very specific purpose. That could be telematics." He adds that even if new platforms aren't ready for prime time, most owners are still pleased with them, and are willing to be forgiving at least for another couple of years. That, he says, gives automakers some breathing room. "But they have to get it right the next time, or they will lose that customer."
Ford, for example, has taken risks in this area that have not paid off initially -- MyFord Touch being an example -- but the firm says buyers appreciate Ford innovation and benefits. Ford has eight models, including Ford Flex, and F-150, leading in their segments. Chevy Volt won in the Special Category area, and has the second highest Total Value score in the industry. Buyer sentiment gave the Volt an almost perfect score in the study.
At the corporate level, Volkswagen won the most segments with Golf, Jetta Wagon, CC, Eos, Audi A3 Wagon, Q5 and Q7. At third was Honda, but it didn't get an increased value in the Innovation area, per the firm. That's a critical measure, per Darrel Edwards, co-founder of the Tustin, Calif.-based market research firm. He explained that factors like resale and MPG are less definitive now that many brands are getting competitive at both of those. "Quality is at the base of value but in looking for that key influencing factor that most heavily predicts future success, 'True Innovation' will be the common denominator of winners."
Most improved are the Chrysler and Dodge siblings. Again, innovation improvement fueled the lift: last year the brands' innovation scores were the worst in the industry. This year they are industry average.