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Every New Subaru Model Gets Shut Out In The Latest J.D. Power APEAL Study

The 2021 J.D. Power APEAL study is out and says Subaru customers aren't being wowed by the 2021 Forester, 2021 Outback, or 2021 Crosstrek. Check out the new study findings.

Even though the 2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Outback, and 2021 Subaru Crosstrek are flying off dealers' lots this year, no Subaru SUVs won their segment again as most appealing in the new 2021 J.D. Power APEAL study. The APEAL study measures owners' emotional attachment to their new vehicle in the first 90 days. Like the recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, Subaru scores well below average.

But in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Automotive Brand Loyalty Study, Subaru is number one in brand loyalty among all automakers for the third straight year with a loyalty rate of 61.8%, beating rivals Toyota (61.1%), and Honda (59.3%), and even luxury brand Lexus (51.6%). J.D. Power even says in the APEAL report that vehicles that create joy for their owners generate brand loyalty.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback
photo credit: Competition Subaru

In the new 2021 APEAL study, Subaru scores well below the segment average of 845 with a score of 835. Subaru scored in the bottom six of all mainstream automakers again in the 2021 study. Only Volkswagen, Jeep, Buick, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler scored lower than Subaru.

No Subaru models won their segment as most appealing in the new study. In the SUV segments, the 2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Outback, 2021 Crosstrek, and 2021 Ascent SUVs are not creating enough excitement, passion, or wowing owners to make the top vehicles list according to J.D. Power.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback
photo credit: Competition Subaru

J.D. Power highest ranked brands

Power says Porsche ranks highest among premium brands and ties Dodge overall with a score of 882. Genesis (879) and Land Rover (879) rank second in a tie among premium brands. Dodge ranks highest among mass-market brands and ties Porsche overall with a score of 882. Ram (881) ranks second and Nissan (866) ranks third among mass-market brands.

It seems Subaru is best in keeping customers coming back and is the brand highest in customer retention among all automakers. They have done it by giving customers safe, all-weather capable, fuel-efficient SUVs that are dependable.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is the hottest model for Subaru of America, and it's flying off retailers' lots in 2021. In a recent iSeeCars study, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek was the fourth fastest-selling vehicle in the U.S. in August. The 2021 Subaru Forester is the seventh fastest-selling vehicle.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback
photo credit: Competition Subaru - 2022 Outback Wilderness

The 2022 Subaru Forester compact SUV gets a refresh, and a new Forester Wilderness trim. The 2022 Subaru Outback also comes with the new Wilderness off-road equipment. Subaru's new rugged models could change the brand's ranking in next year's Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) study.

You Might Also Like: The 2021 Subaru Forester And Crosstrek Are Now The Fastest-Selling Small SUVs

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Competition Subaru


NMK (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 3:14PM

Dodge and Land rover at the top of the list. Say no more. That makes this "study" complete nonsense. LOL
Land rover is the crappiest brand on wheels and you average dodge dealer has more cars parked in the lot to be serviced than they do on the sales lot. APEAL is clearly subjective. It appears those responding to these studies are just trying to make themselves feel better.

@UNDEADsubaru (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 3:41PM

Yea absolutely correct, will be keeping our OLD model subaru. my wife and I and several other people I have talked to, HATE the new cheap looking displays and plastic cladding like the pontiac aztec from 20 years ago we were wondering if the original architect or designer has been taken or kidnapped or quit or someone else designed these? What is going on is this a deal to cheapen the subaru name before it changes hands or brands? LMK

Johnnie Thomas… (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 4:46PM

Why does anyone care what J D power says ?
They are nothing more than a marketing company.
I have had Subarus for the last 30 years. Currently driving 2 Outbacks. Dependability economics and if there's a road underneath me there's not a better vehicle on Market, I live in the midwest so that is important to me you never know what whether you're going to get oh, it's nice to always be ready.

Joscine Enfield (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 6:54PM

Well, I don't know about everyone else but, I'm to busy enjoying my new 2021 Crosstrek to be bothered to take some boring survey. And I loved my 2015 Forester so much I kept to too, and tossed the Honda Civic we had.

George Davis (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 11:27PM

Forget about the displays and cladding. Subaru has always been consistent in making totally unattractive vehicles for over 30 years.

Robert Caminiti (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 2:18AM

Forget JD Power’s rating, just check out Consumer Reports for a real judgment on Subarus. I love my ‘18 Outback.
I love to do online surveys, however when a JD Power comes up, I usually pass because their surveys suck!

Judith Shirk (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 8:32AM

I am awaiting Subaru to bring out my favorite "BAJA"! My 2003 now has 159,000 miles & is still admired for its versatility and style! It's a "sexy vehicle "a woman's eye-catcher!

Lorrie Ann Thomas (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 8:52AM

I had to take my Outback in to the dealership to have the head unit replaced recently and I was very unhappy with the 2021 Outback they gave me as a loaner while they repaired mine. I am so glad that I have a 2018 model before they changed everything to the infotainment system. It is very distracting for anyone driving to have to look at a screen to change settings on the a/c. It's like the new phone where they get rid of all the buttons and put them all digitized on the screen. It's horrible! Subaru's are known for their safety features and the new 2021 are quite the opposite of safety features! I like to ba able to reach to a button or knob that I know where it's at from muscle memory and turn the fan up/down or any of the other buttons that they've now digitized. I really hope they but the brakes on with this new technology and go in reverse! Even in the 2018 it was unsafe to drive when the digitizer went out and I had ghost touches on my screen while I was driving. That made the whole screen go crazy as if someone was sitting there pressing all the buttons, including the volume shooting up high and constantly changing stations or source and messing with my navigation. They replaced the head unit and it's fixed now but it goes to show that you don't want ALL the buttons digitized.

Marc Isikoff (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 10:07AM

I have never, ever been e-mailed or mailed to participate in JD Power surveys. Not ever. I know they just want to liken "quality experts" with their name, but honestly, I don't know any Gen Z or even many Millenials that know who JD Power even is though he's still alive.

The main issue here is pay-to-play: Subaru can get an award, but to run a TV ad with that is $$$, to print that is $$, etc. It's not exactly like they cannot win with no money, but the bigger manufacturers can certainly pay if they win, so you really thin JD Power is going to give a smaller manufacturer an award if they won't pay?

Also, on topic is Consumer Reports who use their paid subs to rate vehicles, provided they have enough paid subs for the vehicles they are covering. Hard to do a Subaru Ascent review in 2020 in CR because they car only existed for 2 years at that point. They then supplement their data with competitor data in the same class but only they say who Subaru Ascent competitor vehicles are. Also smacks of nonsense - I mean what's the overlap between CR paid subs and Subaru owners vs GM?

I bought a 2021 Ascent and love it and have had no problems at all with it. I don't pay for CR to tell me anything, and JD Power and Assocs clearly don't want my input.

Jacob Eubanks (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 10:33AM

Subarus are Clark shoes. They function and perform well - and are very reliable. Their problem is they are pedestrian - venturing on ugly. Toyota needs to step in and improve their "style".

Matt (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 10:42AM

I own old Subarus. I'm emotionally attached to old Subarus. I have owned new Subarus. I am not emotionally attached to them. Their not the same character as the old ones. My most recent purchase was selling a Subaru and buying a Honda.

I'm an engineer. I see Subaru, Honda, and Toyota as significant engineer driven companies with products that show that focus. They're well built and last. I see Subaru as slightly more rugged than Honda in design, and selection of materials and some construction elements of Subaru are better. Honda is better with ergonomics and it's more bold is styling. Honda has higher tech power trains but less rugged ones. Honda ABS and stability control is better than Subaru, but Subarus safety tech is better. They trade blows. Toyota is unique in that their designs tend to be cohesively engineered towards single goals and are often well optimized for that goal. They are more willing to deviate from center mass of the market and make a more specialized product. They are more tailored products. And Toyota combined the ruggedness of Subaru and bolder styling of Honda. Ergonomics isn't as good, and construction is rugged but utilitarian, similar to Subaru. They align well with Subaru and it's likely why the partnership works pretty well for them.

Zerrin Langer (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 11:58AM

We bought our 14th Subaru in August this year. It is 2022 Outback Limited XT. Only one of the 14 was a Forrester we bought for our son. We loved every one of them and bags absolutely no mechanical problem with any of them. We owned one until it had 146,000 miles on it and sold it to get a new model, not for any other reason.
We will always buy a Subaru.

Tennille L Ruhl (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 1:59PM

I love love love my 2021 subaru forester sport. I get comments all the time on how people like my subaru. This is the first subaru I have owned and I will not buy anything other then. I love my subaru ❤❤❤❤❤

john costa (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 5:39PM

I love my 5 Outbacks that I purchased over the years. Never had any significant problems .Their safety features in my opinion are unmatched. I’m anxious to purchase a new one HOWEVER I will wait until they come to their senses and remove the incredibly complicated and non intuitive Ifotainment system. Subaru is known for its safety features but now has you taking your eye off the road to do a simple task such as turning the seat heaters on my having to screen touch a variety of times to activate. Same for temperature controls, I don’t need a variety of apps for entertainment, etc., etc. If enough customers complain perhaps
they will revert. back to the system of a 2018 Outback as an example. If not will consider looking for other vehicles hoping they’re don’t have such a complicated “Infotainment “ system.

Royal A OHusky (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 11:18PM

J.D. WHO?? How about WHO CARES??

If you own a Subaru, you will not want another car/SUV. Love my 2019 Crosstrek!! Once you drink the Kool Aid... THATS IT!

Andrew McWilliams (not verified)    September 18, 2021 - 3:26AM

I have a 2021 Outback (my 3rd Suburu) and a theory about this. I think Suburu has gone too far with its driver-assist technologies. Especially if you drive in a city, you are constantly having to do things that make the car beep angrily at you, or actually try to drive for you when you do not want or need any help. Parallel parking illicits constant angry beeps and tones bc you are "about to hit" the car behind you when you are well aware of this fact and movibg at less than half a mile per hour. Every time you have to go around a car parked in the middle of a lane, the lane departure goes nuts. If you shift your head position, sometimes the creepy inside -driver facing- camera decides you're not looking at the road and starts yelling at you and flashing sanctimonious messages like "stay alert!" Occasionally the "collision avoidance" system jams on the brakes when you have no need of assistance and then acts like it was a hero with some self-satisfied message like "accident avoided!"
All of this may indeed help Subaru's safety data, bc it is true that there are a lot of distracted drivers on the road today. But...if youre not one of them, if you actually keep your cellphone off and pride yourself on paying attention to what youre doing while driving, then all these implicit and explicit messages from the car telling you that it dissaproves of your driving actually start to piss you off.
For better or worse, people will always anthropormorohize their cars -and the person these cars conjur in your mind's-eye is a complete know-it-all jackass of a backseat driver. On the highway, all the robot-car features may be helpful. But for city driving, I actually block all the cameras. With them blocked I love the car -with them doing what they are designed to, I want to take a baseball bat to it.
I can't believe I'm the only person peeved by these systems. Its too much. when cars are ready to actually drive for me, i may happily let them...but until then, Id like my cars to just quietly do as theyre told. I know these systems may save lives, so perhaps its worth it -but I think in the process Suburu is severing the warm feelings between car and driver it has traditionally fostered.

john costa (not verified)    September 18, 2021 - 5:59PM

With my 2018 Outback I can turn off the lane change beeping. Perhaps they removed that feature. If so will be a big negative for me.

Gulo (not verified)    September 19, 2021 - 11:05PM

The Crosstrek is a great little all-weather commuter, and the aesthetics are WAY more pleasing to me than those of the Outback or Forester hatches, but it needs a bit more "fun factor" built into it. Subaru screwed up by not offering the 2.5L with the manual, and they could really clean house by offering a 2.4T/6spd WRX or STI version. Adjustable coilovers to lift/lower could make a car like that versatile enough for offroad or rally, then commuting during the week.

asc (not verified)    September 20, 2021 - 11:04AM

The thing I've noticed about JDP awards is that they recognize "initial" very heavily. It is not a good measure of experience of buyers more attunes to mechanical function and core validity of the vehicle. They can torpedo a vehicle for a flaw in the "chrome" of a cheap plastic dash trim piece when the rest of the vehicle is of utmost integrity.

I've experienced vehicles that were parting themselves out by 65K miles but were pretty and scored well in JDPs, others who were little recognized in JDPs but were resolute beyond 200K miles. Curiously those have been Subarus.

My take is that the JDPs are super for sorting which car to lease or which vehicle will be well received by new to vehicle purchasing buyers and brand changing buyers.