WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — A study by J.D. Power and Associates indicated that overall vehicle appeal has reached an all-time high since the study’s inception in 1996. The company’s 2011 U.S. “Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study” found that the industry’s appeal average increased from 778 in 2010 to 781 on a 1,000-point scale.

“The auto industry has taken a battering during the past few years,” said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates. “However, it is clear that throughout this period, automakers have never lost sight of the fact that survival — and ultimately success — only comes from winning over customers in the showroom. Offering highly appealing vehicles is one of the primary means to succeed.”

The study also revealed that recently launched models are substantially more appealing than their carryover counterparts, widening the gap in score for a second consecutive year. In 2011, the gap came in at 29 points compared with 18 points in 2010 and 10 points in 2009.

J.D. Power and Associates attributes the improvement partially to higher ratings for vehicle styling and fuel economy provided by owners of recently launched vehicles.

While the company’s 2011 Initial Quality Study (IQS) found that all-new and redesigned models have more problems, on average, than do carryover models, the 2011 APEAL Study found that these same models are more likely to offer the styling, performance and features that customers are looking for, according to the company.

“There are two sides of the quality coin: things gone right and things gone wrong,” Sargent said. “Both are of critical importance, and models that perform well on both measures generate higher levels of recommendation and, ultimately, higher loyalty to the brand. In general, customers also are willing to pay more for vehicles that combine high appeal with high initial quality.”

In the model-level rankings, BMW and Dodge captured three awards each. BMW models receiving awards were the redesigned X3, Z4 Roadster and redesigned 5 Series, while Dodge received awards for the Challenger, redesigned Charger and redesigned Durango.

Ford and Honda captured two model-level awards each, with Ford receiving awards for the all-new Fiesta and F-150 LD, and Honda receiving awards for the Ridgeline and redesigned Odyssey.

Also receiving awards were the Chevrolet Volt, Hyundai Equus, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus IS, MINI Countryman, Nissan Armada, Porsche Cayenne, Scion xB, Suzuki Kizashi and Volkswagen GTI.

The Equus achieved the highest APEAL score of any model in the industry in 2011, marking ths the first year that a model other than the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS or Mercedes-Benz S-Class has led the overall model ranking.

The models ranking highest in their respective segments in both the 2011 APEAL Study and the 2011 IQS were the Dodge Challenger, Ford F-150 LD and Honda Ridgeline.

Porsche was the highest ranking nameplate in the 2011 APEAL Study for a seventh consecutive year, while Hyundai improved from 2010 more than any other nameplate this year, according to the study. J.D. Power noted that Jeep and Chrysler improved also considerably.

The APEAL Study examines how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive, based on owner evaluations of more than 80 vehicle attributes. It is based on responses gathered between February and May 2011 from more than 73,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2011 model-year cars and trucks who were surveyed after the first 90 days of ownership.