Study: Seat Comfort for Compacts, Subcompacts Increases
Buyers are more satisfied with seats in smaller cars and are adding more options such as leather.
If you're considering a smaller car to save fuel, like many car shoppers these days, you don’t have to worry about also downsizing your expectations regarding comfort. According to J.D. Power and Associates' 2012 U.S. Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study, released today, owners of small vehicles are more satisfied with the quality of seats, and small cars now come with more seat features than previous models.
"Owners have high expectations for their vehicle, and purchasing a smaller vehicle doesn't mean they want to forgo amenities, especially regarding seats," Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "A vehicle's interior has been growing in importance to vehicle owners, and seats are paramount to driver and passenger comfort."
J.D. Power points out that market share for compact and subcompact models has grown to 35.4 percent in the first seven months of 2012, up 32 percent from the same period in 2008. Twenty-seven percent of new-vehicle owners in the same time period replaced their vehicle with a smaller 2012 model, due in large part to a spike in fuel prices.
The proliferation of seat features in small vehicles has increased along with their sales. The J.D. Power study found, for example, that market penetration for heated seats in the compact and subcompact segments has grown by 16 percent compared with the 2008 study. Penetration for leather seats has jumped 10 percent during the same time period. Memory seats, which allow recall settings for power seats at the touch of a button, increased by 3 percent, and cooled/ventilated seats were up 2 percent.
The study suggests that these tricked-out seats in lower-price cars aren’t just cheaper, less comfortable versions of those found on higher priced vehicles.
Seat satisfaction among owners of compact and subcompact vehicles averaged 7.5 points on a 10-point scale -- significantly higher than in the 2008 study. Ratings for impression of seat material quality and seat styling were also up. Interior comfort is the second-most-common reason that owners cite for deciding on new vehicle, according to the J.D. Power's 2012 Initial Quality Study.
"Automakers are doing a good job of recognizing the importance of seat comfort and quality," VanNieuwkuyk added. "That's evident by the steady increase in seat satisfaction since 2008."
The J.D. Power study also noted that while fewer than 30 percent of owners have memory seats and cooled/ventilated seats, more than 90 percent of those owners say they would like to have the features in their next new car. Most owners who have heated seats and power lumbar support indicated that they would select the features again in their next vehicle.
"Seats are a constant touch point for vehicle owners, and is central to providing a comfortable experience," VanNieuwkuyk said. "Owners clearly are looking for more features and comfort from their vehicle seats, and it is evident there is an opportunity to raise the bar."
Automakers have also raised the bar for technology, with Bluetooth hands-free, voice recognition and smartphone integration acting as examples; lower-priced vehicles offer technology as good as, if not sometimes better than, technology found in higher-end vehicles. The bottom line is that it’s never been a better time to buy a smaller car -- especially with gas prices on the rise -- and that downsizing doesn’t have to mean downscaling.
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