Four models from Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s win first place in their respective categories in the 2007 J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study, designed to measure how gratifying a particular model is after the first 90 days of ownership. The results were announced today.

The Honda Fit subcompact (tie), CR-V small cross/utility vehicle, Ridgeline compact pickup truck and Odyssey minivan all are named tops in their respective categories. The first two models have been in short supply since their launch last year, and the CR-V in 2007 has become the best-selling utility vehicle in the U.S., Honda says.

Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis for J.D. Power, says this year’s study finds vehicles with higher APEAL scores, those above 800, see fewer incentives.

“Vehicle models with strong customer appeal tend to be in higher demand, which diminishes the need for dealers to incentivize to boost sales,” Oddes says in a statement.

Ten of this year’s APEAL winners are all-new for 2007, including the Ford Edge CUV. Ford Motor Co. says the Edge “outperformed its segment average by 68 index points” and thus is the best performer of the all-new or redesigned entrants in the study.

The Edge also won the “Most Appealing Midsize Multi-Activity Vehicle” title.

Other all-new or redesigned APEAL winners include the BMW X5; Cadillac Escalade EXT (tie); GMC Sierra LD; Mercedes-Benz GL (tie); Mercedes-Benz S-Class; Nissan Altima sedan; and Toyota Yaris (tie).

BMW and Mercedes each had three first-place finishers, including the 3-Series, 6-Series and E-Class, while Ford, Nissan, and Volkswagen brands took two awards each. Ford’s Mustang takes first in the Midsize Sporty Car segment for the second year running.

VW’s Jetta and GTI, as well as Nissan’s Armada fullsize SUV, also finish first in their categories, with the Armada winning for the fourth consecutive time.

The Hyundai Azera large sedan and Porsche Cayman sports car also repeat last year’s wins, J.D. Power says.

“Whether due to fresh designs or innovative features, APEAL scores tend to be highest for models when they are first introduced,” Oddes says. “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.”

J.D. Power surveyed 91,000 owners and lessees of ’07 model-year vehicles between February and May on vehicle attributes such as design, content, layout and performance to arrive at the winning models.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com