Honda captures four model segment awards -- more than any other vehicle nameplate this year -- according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study(SM) released today.

The study, now in its 12th year, measures owner delight with the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles. APEAL is designed to complement the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS), which focuses on problems experienced by owners during the first 90 days of ownership. APEAL measures how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive.

Honda's four segment-leading models are the Fit (in a tie), CR-V, Ridgeline and Odyssey. BMW and Mercedes-Benz receive three segment awards, while Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen each garner two awards. BMW models receiving awards include the 3 Series, 6 Series and X5, while Mercedes-Benz earns awards for the E-Class, S-Class and GL-Class. Ford models earning awards are the Mustang and Edge. Volkswagen receives awards for the Jetta and GTI, while Nissan earns awards for the Altima Sedan and Armada.

The study also finds that, for models with higher APEAL scores, vehicle manufacturers and dealers can offer lower incentives to new-vehicle buyers. On average, owners of vehicles with APEAL scores lower than 800, based on a 1,000-point scale, report receiving dealer incentives of approximately $2,000. For purchasers of models with average APEAL scores higher than 800, the incentive amount can decline by up to 10 percent.

"Vehicle models with strong customer appeal tend to be in higher demand, which diminishes the need for dealers to incentivize to boost sales," said Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis at J.D. Power and Associates. "Offering larger incentives decreases the profitability of vehicles, so it's important for manufacturers to incorporate those 'must-have' features and design elements that will entice buyers, which also reduces the need for large customer cash rebates."

A number of all-new and redesigned models lead the model rankings for 2007. Ten of the top-ranking models in the APEAL study -- the BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade EXT (in a tie), Ford Edge, GMC Sierra LD, Honda Fit, Honda CR-V, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (in a tie), Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Nissan Altima Sedan and Toyota Yaris (in a tie) -- were all-new or redesigned this year. Also receiving awards are the Hyundai Azera and Porsche Cayman.

"Whether due to fresh designs or innovative features, APEAL scores tend to be highest for models when they are first introduced," said Oddes. "It's essential for manufacturers to get new-vehicle launches right, since vehicles with high appeal scores generally command a higher gross profit and sell more quickly. Two of the redesigned models -- the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (in a tie) and Honda CR-V -- also earned awards in the 2007 Initial Quality Study, and are examples of how manufacturers can learn from preceding models to improve in both initial quality and appeal."

The Nissan Armada ranks highest in its segment for a fourth consecutive year. Several models, including the Ford Mustang, Honda Ridgeline and Honda Odyssey rank highest in their respective segments for a third consecutive year, while the Porsche Cayman and Hyundai Azera earn awards for a second consecutive year. The Mustang and Mercedes-Benz E-Class also rank highest in their segments in both the APEAL study and IQS.

Porsche is the highest-ranking nameplate in APEAL for a third consecutive year. The most improved nameplate in the 2007 study is Scion.

The 2007 APEAL Study is based on responses gathered between February and May 2007 from more than 91,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2007 model-year cars and trucks who were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership.

Find more detailed findings on new-vehicle APEAL performance as well as model photos and specs by watching a video, reading an article and reviewing appeal ratings at JDPower.com.