Vehicle dependability takes hit in J.D. Power study

Jim Lynch, The Detroit News

Technology-related problems contributed to a worsening in dependability for a second consecutive year in the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study.

The study, which looked at problems reported in the past 12 months by owners of 2014 model-year vehicles, found an industry average of 156 problems per 100 vehicles. The previous study released in 2016 found 152 problems per 100 vehicles. As high-tech gadgetry filters down through all levels of vehicles, more problems are being registered by owners.

“The industry as a whole has largely gotten worse in this area again this year ... ,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “It’s largely driven by higher penetration of more sophisticated entertainment systems.”

Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, Ram and Lincoln, which all ranked in the top 10 last year, slipped to varying degrees in the latest rankings.

Buick, which previously was No. 3, slipped to No. 4. GMC, previously No. 5, tumbled to No. 14; the number of problems per 100 vehicles grew from 120 to 151. Chevrolet slipped two spots to No. 8.

Ram, which was No. 9 in dependability last year, took a precipitous plunge to a tie with the Ford brand at No. 26. Sargent said Ram’s fall is most likely due to the inclusion of Ram’s heavy-duty pickup in the latest tabulations. The number of problems reported spiked from 129 problems per 100 vehicles last year, to 183 in this study.

And Lincoln slipped slightly in the rankings, from No. 10 in 2016 to a tie for No. 12 in 2017. Its Ford brand stablemate showed improvement, rising from 31st place last year to a tie for 26th this year.

“The Ford brand, while it’s still below average, has shown improvement pretty much across their lineup and across all types of reported problems,” Sargent said. “After a few rough years, there is systematic improvement across Ford.”

Lexus and Porsche were holdovers atop the rankings with the two companies tying for first this year.

Chevy’s Tahoe was rated most reliable among large SUVs and the Silverado HD ranked tops in heavy-duty pickups. At the other end of the size spectrum, Chevy’s Sonic was top-ranked among small cars and the Camaro was best among midsize sporty cars.

Ford’s F-150 took top honors among large light-duty pickups.

With its luxury Lexus brand riding high, Toyota scored well across the board. Of the 18 individual car segment categories, Toyota and Lexus scored the top model in 10 of them.

Most of Fiat Chrysler’s brands continued to linger near the bottom of the rankings. Ram, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat all ranked in the bottom five this year.

Dodge showed improvement, rising three places from the bottom of the rankings last year. And FCA’s numbers as a whole may be on the rise in coming years. Sargent said that data collected last year on short-term satisfaction for the company’s vehicles showed improvement.

“They still have a long way to go, but it appears they have turned the corner,” he said.

Several high-volume sellers were able to score high marks in reliability — a trend that shows top-dollar isn’t necessary for dependability. Toyota’s Camry, the best-selling car on the planet, earned the highest dependability rankings for a midsize car. The F-150 pickup also is the top seller in its category.

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Tops for reliability

Small car - Chevrolet Sonic

Compact car - Toyota Prius

Compact premium car - Lexus ES

Midsize car - Toyota Camry

Midsize sporty car - Chevrolet Camaro

Midsize premium car - Lexus GS

Large car - Toyota Avalon

Small SUV - Volkswagen Tiguan

Compact MPV - Toyota Prius v

Compact SUV - Toyota FJ Cruiser

Compact premium SUV - Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class

Midsize pickup - Honda Ridgeline

Midsize SUV - Toyota Venza

Midsize premium SUV - Lexus RX

Minivan - Toyota Sienna

Large SUV - Chevrolet Tahoe

Large light-duty pickup - Ford F-150

Heavy-duty pickup - Chevrolet Silverado

Source: J.D. Power