Which Auto Brands are Most Dependable?
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — In the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study unveiled on Thursday, Porsche topped the list of all nameplates and Japanese automakers led the individual segment awards, but domestics made impressive showings, as well.
In fact, three of the top five spots in the nameplate rankings were held by Big 3 brands, including second-place Lincoln, which climbed from No. 6 in last year's study. Additionally, Buick was No. 3 and Mercury placed fifth.
Lexus, meanwhile, was fourth.
Basically, the VDS examines the dependability of three-year-old vehicles (2007 model-year) by measuring the amount of problems that the original owners of these models experience.
It is comprised of 198 different problem symptoms throughout all aspects of a vehicle. J.D. Power calculates the dependability by determining the number of problems per 100 vehicles.
The lower the score, the better.
In addition to recognizing nameplates, VDS honors individual models across 19 segments.
The rankings were led by Toyota, which took four segment awards and Japanese OEMs were honored in nine vehicle categories. Models from Big 3 brands were recognized in seven categories, while European automakers were represented in three segments.
Interestingly enough, domestics fared particularly well in the list of top 10 least problematic vehicles. Of all models in the study, the vehicle with the least issues was the Cadillac DTS (76 problems per 100 vehicles), which was the first time in more than 10 years this honor was bestowed upon a Big 3 vehicle.
"It's gratifying for DTS to excel in a study that is well respected by consumers," stated Don Butler, vice president of Cadillac marketing. "Luxury buyers value leadership in the products they select, from brands that they trust."
What's more, Ford and General Motors occupied seven of the top 10 spots of the models with fewest problems experienced. This includes the Buick Lacrosse, Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, Ford Five Hundred, Lincoln MKZ, Mercury Milan and Mercury Montego.
Continuing on, J.D. Power emphasized the widespread improvements in dependability being made throughout the industry, noting that 25 of the 36 nameplates in the study gained some ground from a year ago.
That said, there exists an unfavorable gap between consumer perception and actual dependability performance for many brands.
Essentially, although these brands actually performed quite well in this year's study with regards to long-term dependability, many consumers have steered clear of these nameplates because of perceptions of the brand's dependability.
J.D. Power pointed out that how a new-vehicle shopper perceives the quality and dependability of a specific vehicle has the greatest impact on whether or not they decides to buy the vehicle.
The nameplates that have shown the greatest disparity between perception and performance when it comes to dependability are Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai, Lincoln and Mercury, officials noted.
"Producing vehicles with world-class quality is just part of the battle for automakers; convincing consumers to believe in their quality is equally as important," explained David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates.
"It takes considerable time to positively change consumer perceptions of quality and dependability — sometimes a decade or more — so it is vital for manufacturers to continually improve quality and also to convince consumers of these gains," he added.
Sargent suggested several strategies for automakers to help foster perception of high quality among consumers. These include the following:
—Offer extended warranties. This can help a brand show that the automaker stands behind its product.
—Include features, materials and finishes "that have a rich feel" in vehicles.
—Make sure that when new vehicles are introduced, they have stronger quality than the prior editions. Spread the word regarding high quality and dependability via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and tap into "traditional" channels, as well.
Moving on, J.D. Power looked at overall dependability in the industry, which was 155 PP 100 in 2010. This marked a 7-percent improvement from the 167 PP 100 a year ago.
What's more, vehicle component replacement rates dipped, too, with the amount of owners saying they replaced a component this year standing at roughly 65 percent. A year ago, 68 percent of owners did the same.
"The improvements in long-term dependability and component replacement rates are good news for both consumers and manufacturers," Sargent noted. "Manufacturers benefit from lower warranty expenses, while consumers incur lower maintenance and repair costs, as well as less inconvenience."
Finally, J.D. Power pointed out that repurchase intent is uplifted substantially by long-term dependability. In fact, 43 percent of owners who did not report a problem with their vehicle said they "definitely will" buy from their current brand again.
Meanwhile, only 28 percent of owners who reported at least one problem said the same.
The data for this study was generated via responses from surveys conducted between October and December of 52,000 original owners of 2007 model-year units.
The following is the nameplate ranking of fewest problems per 100 vehicles:
Industry Average: 155
—Land Rover: 255
Broken down by segment, the top three in each car category are as follows:
—Highest Ranked: Honda Fit
—Highest Ranked: Toyota Prius
Compact Sporty Car
—Highest Ranked: Mazda MX-5 Miata
—Pontiac Solstice Convertible
Midsize Sporty Car
—Highest Ranked: Chevrolet Monte Carlo
—Highest Ranked: Buick LaCrosse
—Highest Ranked: Mercury Montego
—(tie) Buick Lucerne, Ford Five Hundred
Compact Premium Sporty Car*
—Highest Ranked: BMW Z4
Entry Premium Vehicle
—Highest Ranked: Lincoln MKZ
Midsize Premium Car
—Highest Ranked: Audi A6
—Lexus ES 350
—(tie) Cadillac STS, Infiniti M-Series
Large Premium Car*
—Highest Ranked: Cadillac DTS
—Lexus LS 460
Premium Sporty Car*
—Highest Ranked: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
*Note: No other vehicle in these categories rated above the segment average.
Meanwhile, the following are the top three vehicles in each truck/multi-activity vehicle categories:
—Highest Ranked: Honda CR-V
—Highest Ranked: Toyota Highlander
—Highest Ranked: Toyota Sequoia
—Highest Ranked: Toyota Tundra
—Ford F-150 LD
—Chevrolet Silverado Classic HD
—Highest Ranked: Honda Ridgeline
—Highest Ranked: Ford Freestar
—(tie) Buick Terraza, Chrysler Town & Country
Midsize Premium MAV
—Highest Ranked: Lexus GX 470
Large Premium MAV
—Highest Ranked: Lincoln Mark LT
—Cadillac Escalade EXT