Consumers continue to give new vehicle designs higher ratings, providing automakers who can turn out new designs faster an edge in the marketplace, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study released this week.

The study, now in its 11th year, measures owner delight with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles. The APEAL Study has been redesigned for 2006 to provide better coverage of new technologies that didn't exist previously.

The study finds that all-new models or models that have undergone a major redesign generally receive APEAL scores that are higher than average. This is critical, since models with higher APEAL scores tend to have more satisfied owners, sell more quickly and generate more profit. Conversely, carryover models (those with virtually no changes from 2005) have APEAL scores that are slightly lower than average.

Surprisingly, models that have received what the industry refers to as a "freshening" from the previous year typically earn APEAL scores that are no better than carryover models. A number of all-new and redesigned models lead the model rankings for 2006.

The Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Azera, Lexus IS 250/IS 350, Porsche Cayman, Ford Fusion, and Infiniti M-Series each rank highest in their segments. Nissan has three segment-leading models, more than any other brand: Murano, Titan and Armada.

Infiniti also receives two awards for the QX56 and the M-Series.

Other brands with multiple awardees include Honda, Ford and Porsche. Among the models ranking highest in their respective segments in APEAL, three also received top rankings in the 2006 Initial Quality Study. They are: Porsche Cayman, Lexus IS 250/IS 350 and Suzuki Aerio. This is the first time that a Suzuki model has ranked highest in its segment in both IQS and APEAL.