2012 Chevrolet SonicEnlarge Photo
Will your next car be smaller than your current one?
If you answered yes, then you're in good company, as a recent JD Power survey shows that 27 percent of new car buyers have downsized in the last year.
The 2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study, showed that only 13 percent of buyers went for a larger vehicle, with 60 percent staying in the same vehicle class.
The results are indicative of the leap in quality and equipment of smaller cars in recent years. They're shaking off the "econobox" tag, and simply becoming smaller versions of the quality vehicles you'd normally expect higher up a carmaker's range.
"New-vehicle buyers who down are not making the sacrifice that they once were," explains David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. "Automakers are heavily focused on providing the U.S. market with appealing smaller models, and buyers may be surprised at just how good some of them are."
Modern small cars are now safer, quicker, more comfortable, roomier and better-equipped than ever before. This is leading consumers to trade downwards, benefitting from improved economy and reduced running costs, without having to sacrifice creature comforts.
The trend for customers moving down a vehicle class has actually been ongoing for some time, but J.D. Power has seen an increase in customer satisfaction with smaller vehicles, with scores in the compact and subcompact categories now matching those of midsize vehicles from a few years back.
"Vehicle owners who down [-size] are often finding that they are actually upgrading when they buy a new vehicle" says Sargent.
Economy increasingly important
The APEAL study also shows the increasing importance of gas mileage for consumers. In the 2012 survey, 47 percent of owners said that gas mileage was one of the most important factors in choosing a new car--that's up seven percent from 2011 alone.
With rising gas prices, that trend looks likely to continue. However, styling is still the most important factor in choosing a car, according to the survey.
Clearly, not all consumers are ready to downsize just yet, but the survey shows that modern small cars no longer have the stigma they once suffered from, and for over a quarter of new car buyers, they're ideal for meeting drivers' needs.
+++++++++++"New-vehicle buyers who down are not making the sacrifice that they once were," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. "Automakers are heavily focused on providing the U.S. market with appealing smaller models, and buyers may be surprised at just how good some of them are."