The global marketing information services firm J.D. Power and Associates is widely known for its analyses and rankings of automobiles and home builders, but now the Westlake Village, Calif.–based company has turned its sights on major appliances. In its 2005 Major Home Appliance Study—the inaugural survey—the company found that KitchenAid dishwashers and ranges rank highest in customer satisfaction among new-home buyers, while Samsung ranks highest in refrigerators.

Because of licensing agreements, appliance manufacturers could not comment on the study's findings.

J.D. Power's study measures homeowners' satisfaction with three major kitchen appliances: dishwashers, ranges/cooktops/ovens, and refrigerators. The study—based on responses from 7,574 new-home buyers who recently purchased kitchen appliances with their new home or from a retailer—explores such topics as consumer brand loyalty, problem occurrence, and warranty and repair service.

“As the home appliance market grows increasingly competitive, quality becomes an important differentiator for consumers,” says Dale Haines, director of real estate industries at J.D. Power. This is an important issue that appliance manufacturers should consider, Haines says, since consumers can easily dismiss brands based on the information that is available for products.

According to the study, KitchenAid, the high-end line manufactured by Benton Harbor, Mich.–based Whirlpool Corp., ranks highest in both the dishwasher and the range/cooktop/oven segments. The line received exceptional ratings for performance and features. Whirlpool Gold, GE Profile, and GE Monogram also performed well in the dishwasher category, and Whirlpool Gold, Frigidaire, and GE Profile did well in the range/cooktop/oven segment.

Korean manufacturer Samsung ranked the highest among refrigerator manufacturers, receiving outstanding ratings from consumers in the highly important performance factor. Samsung also received strong ratings for price. Also performing well were Kenmore Elite, KitchenAid, and Whirlpool Gold.

HEAVY DUTY: KitchenAid dishwashers and ranges scored high marks in J.D. Power's inaugural home appliances survey.
HEAVY DUTY: KitchenAid dishwashers and ranges scored high marks in J.D. Power's inaugural home appliances survey.

The study finds that more than 90 percent of buyers of newly built homes bought their dishwashers and ranges from the builder, but 60 percent of buyers purchased their refrigerators from a retailer rather than the builder.

“While builders often simplify the process of purchasing appliances, there are typically fewer options in terms of brands and features for consumers,” says Haines. “Consumers who purchase their appliances from a retailer are often more satisfied with the brand and model they ultimately purchased, because they had complete control over the purchase decision. This contributes to higher rates of brand loyalty.”

BUI020638L2(150)Though the findings of the study are interesting, one industry observer questions their validity and relevance. “I don't understand the data,” says Alex Cheimets, a former senior product manager at Thermador Appliances in Huntington Beach, Calif., who now edits, a trade news Web site for appliance dealers and distributors. “I can't judge what it all means.”

Cheimets is skeptical of the study even as a customer satisfaction survey. The sample size seems small, he says, and he wonders how Samsung posted so high a result. Many builders do not offer the fairly young brand, he says, but the relative low price of the products may have registered positively with new-home buyers.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.