Lexus tops J.D. Powers' dependability study
Five domestic automobile brands — including four owned by General Motors Co. — cracked the top 10 in this year's J.D. Power & Associates' U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. It's the first time more than three domestic nameplates have made the top 10.
The study named Lexus as the most dependable brand for the fourth straight year. But GM's Buick (2nd place), Cadillac (4th), Chevrolet and GMC (both tied for 10th) all ranked in the top 10, as did Ford's luxury brand, Lincoln (7th place). Last year, only Cadillac, Lincoln and Buick made the cut.
GM and Toyota tied for the most segment awards, with each picking up seven awards for specific models.
The J.D. Power study was more good news for GM, coming a day after Buick broke into the top 10 to become the only domestic make in Consumer Reports' annual survey of best cars and trucks, and GM won two out of 10 segment awards.
"These are major milestones for GM, which was in bankruptcy five years ago and embroiled in an ugly ignition-switch recall situation a year ago," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at AutoTrader.com. "The accolades lend support to the assertions by GM executives that this is a new GM producing quality vehicles with new processes and a new spirit."
The J.D. Power study looked at dependability of 2012 models over the first three years of ownership. Overall vehicle dependability, which the study measures as problems per 100 vehicles over those three years, fell for the second straight year. This year, dependability fell to 147 problems per 100 vehicles from 133 problems per 100 last year.
The study found that the top two problems reported by owners are Bluetooth pairing and voice-recognition systems that misinterpret commands. The study found 55 percent of owners who experienced a Bluetooth pairing/connectivity problem reported that vehicle systems would not recognize their phones, and 31 percent said phones would not automatically connect.
"Despite in-car technology improvements from nearly every brand, this area continues to be the biggest source of consumer complaints," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "Given this study's timing, and how much these interfaces have evolved over the past three years, it's likely we'll see fewer technology complaints in future feedback. However, until automakers completely remove the frustration inherent in most modern phone, navigation and audio systems, they will experience lower overall quality ratings, even if the rest of the vehicle is perfectly executed."
Six of the top 10 problems are design-related, and the most frequently reported problems are related to the exterior of the vehicle, followed by engine/transmission and audio/communication/entertainment/navigation.
Dependability has a significant impact on customer loyalty. According to the study, 56 percent of owners who report no vehicle problems say they "definitely will" purchase the same brand next time, compared to 43 percent of those who report three or more issues.
General Motors Co. picked up seven segment awards for the Buick LaCrosse; Chevrolet Camaro; Chevrolet Malibu; Chevrolet Silverado HD; GMC Sierra LD; GMC Terrain; and GMC Yukon. Toyota also earned seven segment wins for vehicles including the Lexus ES; Lexus GX; Scion tC; Scion xB; Scion xD; Toyota Corolla; and Toyota Sienna.
"GM's customer-driven approach to quality and dependability is breaking through," Grace Lieblein, vice president, global quality, said in a statement.
Scion was the most improved brand, rising from the 22nd overall spot last year to ninth this year. Ram jumped from 25th last year to 14th this year, but all other Fiat Chrysler Automobile brands fell below the industry average.
"Continuous product improvements and launch quality initiatives are top priorities for the entire team at FCA US and our internal measurements are showing progress," Matt Liddane, head of quality, FCA North America, said in a statement. "As our product line and market share grow, it's critical that we make a good impression on our new customers and earn the loyalty of our existing owners."
Chrysler (23rd), Jeep (29th) and Dodge (27th) finished below average, as did Ford at 25th.
"Ford continues to strive for best-in-class levels worldwide in initial quality reliability and long-term durability on our vehicles through increased quality checkpoints during the product development phase and the manufacturing process,'' Deeptie Sethi, global quality communications, said in a statement.
10 most dependable brands
Dependability segment winners (2012 model year)
Small car: Scion xD
Compact car: Toyota Corolla
Compact premium car: Lexus ES
Compact sporty car: Scion tC
Midsize car: Chevrolet Malibu
Midsize sporty car: Chevrolet Camaro
Midsize premium car: Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Large car: Buick LaCrosse
Small SUV: Kia Sportage
Compact SUV: GMC Terrain
Compact premium SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
Compact MPV: Scion xB
Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano
Midsize premium SUV: Lexus GX
Midsize pickup: Honda Ridgeline
Minivan: Toyota Sienna
Large SUV: GMC Yukon
Large light duty pickup: GMC Sierra LD
Large heavy duty pickup: Chevrolet Silverado HD