DETROIT (WWJ) - According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) released Thursday, overall vehicle dependability has improved from 2010.
The VDS revealed that while automakers are succeeding in reducing problem rates in many traditional areas, they are experiencing some challenges in overcoming problems with newer technologies and features.
The VDS, which measured problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of 2008 model-year vehicles, included 202 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. Overall dependability is determined by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.
In 2011, overall vehicle dependability averaged 151-PP100. This is the lowest problem rate since the inception of the study in 1990.
Between 2009 and 2011, annual improvement for the industry has averaged 6%, which is slightly lower than historical rates of improvement. During the past decade, industry improvement has averaged 8% each year.
The slowdown in improvement can be largely attributable to increased rates of problems with electronic features in vehicles, including audio, entertainment, navigation systems and new safety features, such as tire pressure monitoring systems.
According to David Sargent, Vice President of Global Vehicle Research at J.D. Power and Associates, as newer technologies become more widespread, enhancing the dependability of these features has become an important point of differentiation among automakers.
“Automakers, as a whole, have made significant improvements in reducing traditional problems, particularly with vehicle interiors; engines and transmissions; and steering and braking during the past several years,” Sargent said in a release.
“However, as manufacturers add new features and technologies to satisfy customer demand and new legislation, they face the potential for introducing new problems,” he continued.
Lincoln led the overall nameplate rankings in 2011, followed by Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota. The Porsche 911 had the fewest problems in the industry.
Toyota Motor Corporation continued to perform well in long-term dependability and garnered seven segment awards, more than any other automaker in 2011, for the Lexus RX, Scion xB, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Prius, Toyota Sienna, Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra.
Ford Motor Company received four model awards for the Ford Fusion, Ford Mustang, Lincoln MKZ and Lincoln Navigator.
General Motors (Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, and Chevrolet Tahoe) and Honda Motor Company (Acura RL, Honda CR-V and Honda Fit) each received three awards.
The VDS found that while domestic brands have closed the gap in initial quality with import brands, there is still a considerable difference between the two in vehicle dependability. In 2011, import brands outperformed domestic brands by 18-PP100.
While domestic brand cars have fewer problems than import brand cars, trucks and crossover vehicles of import brands have considerably fewer problems than those of domestic brands.
The results of the VDS are said to impact nearly everyone, from car companies to consumers. Vehicle manufacturers worldwide use the results to help design and build better vehicles while consumers use the results to make more-informed choices for both new- and used-vehicle purchases.
According to J.D. Power and Associates, perception of quality and dependability is the most influential factor among new-vehicle shoppers in their decision to purchase a specific vehicle model.
Long-term dependability also has a notable effect on dealership service and customer service spending. As the number of problems experienced increases, owners are more likely to use non-dealer service facilities for paid service work. In addition, as the number of problems increases, the percentage of owners who say they “definitely will” return to their dealer for service diminishes.
The 2011 VDS is based on responses from more than 43,700 original owners of 2008 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded between October and December 2010.