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What is the J.D. Power Award and Should I Care?

Photo by Opollo Photography, Unsplash

Last updated on May 16, 2022

What is the J.D. Power company?

If you’ve ever seen a car commercial, then it is more than likely you’ve heard of the J.D. Power Award. In fact, it is more than likely you’ve wondered why you should care about what seems to be a random award. Unlike first appearances, the J.D. Power company is a lot more complicated than it looks.

J.D. Power is the namesake of James David Power III, the original owner who has since sold it. Originally called J.D. Power and Associates, (the associates later dropped from the name.) It labels itself as a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services, and data and analytics. That is to say, it uses data, algorithms, and surveys of consumer experience as a mode to determine whether a product is backed up by the consumer or not. Then, it ranks competitors, giving the highest-ranking an award for their achievement. It is usually the winner that features any award within their commercial.

Important to know, that its industries do not only extend to automotive. It includes the home, healthcare, insurance, and more. (You can find a complete list here, on their website). Still, the auto industry is most known by the consumer, so that will be the focus of this article.

What does it do?

As shown in its beginnings, it started out as a name common within the industry. Companies would hear of J.D. Power’s reports and how they measured the efficacy of certain car functions. Then, they would then buy those findings to improve their products. This all changed after the 1984 Super Bowl ad where Subaru mentioned the J.D. Power Award in an ad. Now it has become a household name as much as an industry name.

Don’t get it twisted, J.D. Power is less for the consumer and more for the company. Its rankings have become less about its legitimacy and more about recognition. You may hear the J.D. Power Award and associate it with prestige, even if that is not entirely accurate. 

Flaws in the system

This system is not perfect. For example, J.D. Power sells its its research and charges licensing fees to the companies it ranks, thus, there is a conflict of interest. It’s clear that this issue is not weighted too heavily as many companies still use J.D. Power rankings. Another issue arises when considering this new digital age. Nowadays cars can have many issues stemming from a variety of issues. All these are different from the 1980s and 1990s when cars either got you from point A to B or didn’t. Making up for this gap is something J.D. Power has struggled to do in recent years.

Additionally, there have been problems stemming from their IQS (Initial Survey Study). In it, drivers have to answer more than 200 questions throughout eight different categories. Which are exterior, interior, features, screens, seats, climate control, powertrain, and driving experience. Its goal is to measure quality by consumer satisfaction. That means if one individual has an issue with something, it is a problem, even if it is only based on opinion. Every person’s opinions differ, and so many problems arise. But this can also be a benefit. If there is a feature that is undesirable for the consumer, companies know about it and can replace it.

Often used to bolster the prestige of a company, the J.D. Power Award is a fascinating marketing ploy. It has continued for decades and is unlikely to disappear from car advertisements completely. At the end of the day, the concept that the J.D. Power Award is an important factor in choosing which car to buy is a pure assumption. One which has been given to consumers by the company itself. While they have a place working for the company, the system is not perfect. And you should choose your car based on what you like, not what a company determines is right.

So, should you care about the J.D. Power Award? No, not really.

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