Drive For Fuel Economy Gains Leads To Consumer Complaints
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WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA — (WWJ) Car and truck owners are starting to complain more about their vehicles, and it can be directly attributed to attempts to improve fuel economy.
The annual Vehicle Dependability Study from JD Power–a survey of owners of three year old vehicles–showed complaints up 6 percent year over year.
“After 15 years of continuous improvement, the industry actually took a step back this year,” says J.D. Power Vice President, Automotive David Sargent. “It’s the first time since 1998 that we actually saw problems increase year over year.”
Sargent said the vast majority of complaints were about the feel of the engine or transmission, something that’s directly related to tuning done by auto companies to improve fuel economy.
“The customer considers it to be a problem, because the engine and transmission is not responding the way they want it to. It’s technically not a dependability issue.”
The engine complaints outnumber complaints over electronic systems, which Power tends to see in its Initial Quality Study of brand new vehicles.
“When it comes to dependability, luxury brands lead the list, with Lexus far ahead of other brands.”
“Lexus performs extremely well,” said Sargent. “Then we have Mercedes. Cadillac has moved up significantly this year, and now ranks third. It’s the top domestic brand.”
Mini was at the bottom of the list, with Hyundai and Kia the brands that fell the most from previous years.
General Motors was the only domestic company to have all of its brands above average. GM, says Sargent, also had the most vehicles that topped their individual categories.
“GM actually receives 8 of the 22 awards. That’s more than any other corporation. Toyota receives 7. Honda receives 6.”
BMW was the only other company to have a vehicle lead its category.
This dependability data often tracks real world sales results.
“By combining our customer research with trade-in data, we see a very strong correlation between dependability and real-world brand loyalty,” said Sargent. “Also, we see that brands with lower dependability are likely to be shut out of a significant piece of the market, as many consumers will not even consider purchasing one of their vehicles because of concerns about its likely reliability.”
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