As the old baseball adage goes, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” When it comes to J.D. Power, the phrase might read, “You can’t tell the new owner without a scorecard.”
One of the nation’s best-known automotive research firms, Power has changed hands repeatedly during the last 16 years and will do so once again, this time being sold to EV data company ZappyRide.
“ZappyRide is positioned at the center of that interconnected ecosystem, delivering the software and solutions that all EV stakeholders need to make,” Dave Habiger, the president and CEO of J.D. Power, said in a statement announcing the sale on Tuesday morning. “By adding these capabilities and key relationships to our robust offerings in automotive and utilities data, analytics and consumer intelligence, we are strengthening our leadership position in the EV intelligence space.”
Founded in the family dining room
Power was founded back in 1968 by James David (J.D.) Power III. A former auto analyst working for Ford Motor Co., he launched J.D. Power and Associates working at the family’s kitchen table in April 1968. The associates included his wife, who helped crunch data, and children, who stuffed envelopes with survey forms sent out to vehicle owners.
Power’s big break came when he identified problems with Mazda’s then-new rotary engines. They were failing catastrophically and threatened to put the company out of business.
Within the next few years. JDPA became one of the most widely known automotive research firms in the U.S., with works like the annual Initial Quality Study widely quoted and closely followed by both manufacturers and the public. But the company has also expanded into a variety of other fields, including telecom and health care, and even provided guidance on quality control to NASA following the space shuttle Challenger disaster.
It also launched an insurance and financial services venture in 2017.
A series of sales
By then, founder Dave Power had retired. He sold the company to McGraw Hill Financial in 2005, staying on in an advisory role for the next two years before fully stepping down. Power passed away in January 2021.
In September 2016, S&P Global Inc. — which had taken over the McGraw Hill operations — sold J.D. Power to the XIO Group for $1.1 billion. In March 2018, Harbiger was named president, replacing Finbarr O’Neill, a former Hyundai Motor America lawyer and CEO and 10-year Power chief executive.
The changes kept coming. In 2019, Power was acquired by Thomas Brava, a Chicago-based private equity firm. And it was then merged with Autodata Solutions, a company that provided data and other automotive services.
The company is now based in Troy, Michigan, less than an hour from the Detroit Big Three automakers, moving from its longtime home in the northern suburbs of Los Angeles.
Plugging into the EV Revolution
Power continues to produce more than 200 annual studies, including the well-known IQS, the Vehicle Dependability Study and a series of relatively new reports focusing on electric vehicles and advanced vehicle technologies.
The latter work appears to be closely aligned to the research conducted by J.D. Power’s newest owner, ZappyRide.
That company was founded in 2018 and according to the release announcing the purchase, it “has been a pioneer in the development of EV-specific software designed to empower OEMs, utilities, government agencies, fleet companies and rideshare companies with the data and services they need to navigate the fast-moving EV landscape.”
The timing of the sale coincides with one of the most significant changes to sweep through the auto industry in over a century. What some have dubbed the “EV Revolution” has seen sales of battery-electric vehicles begin to grow rapidly. EVs accounted for barely 1% of the U.S. market in 2019, jumping to more than 5% last year.
“The U.S. market saw approximately 20 new EV models launched in 2022 alone, and with roughly one-fourth of Americans now indicating that they are ‘very likely’ to consider an EV for their next purchase or lease, it has become clear that that the world as we know it is changing quickly,” said Craig Jennings, president of J.D. Power Autodata Solutions.
“I could not be happier about joining forces with J.D. Power to help drive the EV transformation,” said ZappyRide CEO Olivier Pinçon.