The highly competitive SUV market is spawning many new and redesigned models that capture top rankings across all four SUV segments, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) StudySM released Oct. 1. “The demand for new truck and SUV designs is soaring because of their fresh and more daring looks,” said Brian Walters, director of product research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Americans love their cars and they want to drive something that stands out in a crowd. At the same time, SUV owners are demanding the same creature comforts as cars as well as a more car-like ride. The study shows many manufacturers are doing a good job designing for those expectations.” General Motors SUVs top three out of the four segments in the APEAL study. The new Pontiac Aztek, most noted for its unconventional exterior, captured the top ranking in the entry SUV segment. Interestingly, the Aztek scores highest or second highest in every APEAL component measure except exterior styling. The vehicle, dubbed the first “sport recreational vehicle” by Pontiac, features unique options such as a seat backpack, a bike rack and a novel camper tent that unfolds over the tailgate. “While many auto reviewers have been quick to criticize the Aztek’s unusual exterior, Aztek owners overwhelmingly praise its smooth, quiet ride and sound system,” said Walters. GM models also capture top rankings in the midsize SUV segment, with the all-new Chevrolet TrailBlazer, and in the luxury SUV segment, with the completely redesigned Cadillac Escalade. The new Toyota Sequoia ranks highest in the full-size SUV segment. Overall, Toyota and Lexus brands rank highest in seven vehicle segments, making Toyota Motor Sales the manufacturer with the most top-ranking models in the 2001 study. The Avalon tops the premium midsize segment for the second straight year. The Tacoma ties with the Ford Explorer Sport Trac for most appealing compact pickup, and the Tundra retains its top spot among full-size pickups. Lexus models sweep all three luxury car segments. The Lexus ES 300 is the most appealing entry luxury car, followed closely by its high-performance sibling, the IS 300. The GS Sedan tops the mid-luxury car segment and the LS 430 ranks highest among premium luxury cars. Volkswagen models continue to do well in the study, with the Beetle setting the APEAL standard for compact cars every year since its introduction in 1998. The Jetta ranks highest for the third year in a row in the entry midsize car segment, and the GTI ranks most appealing in the sporty car segment. Other notable segment leaders are the Ford Crown Victoria in the full-size car segment and the redesigned Chrysler Town & Country in the compact van segment. The Audi TT and the Chevrolet Corvette tie for the top spot in the premium sports car segment. “From the manufacturer’s standpoint, these rankings help them understand and clearly define what consumers want from today’s vehicles,” said Joe Ivers, partner and executive director of quality and customer satisfaction research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Models with high APEAL scores typically move off dealer lots quicker and consequently require fewer incentives. It’s a win-win situation. Customers are more satisfied, and both the dealers and manufacturers see greater per-vehicle gross profits.” The 2001 APEAL study, now in its sixth year, is based on responses from more than 110,000 new-vehicle owners and measures what excites and delights them with their vehicle’s features and design. It comprises eight specific areas of vehicle performance and design, including more than 110 attributes that identify what consumers like and dislike about their new vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. These areas include vehicle exterior styling; engine and transmission; comfort and convenience; ride, handling and braking; seats; heating, ventilation and cooling; cockpit and instrument panel; and sound system. About J.D. Power and Associates Headquartered in Agoura Hills, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on actual responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates can be accessed through the Internet at