Power: Lexus Still Tops, Domestics ImprovingThe latest survey from J.D. Power and Associates measuring vehicle quality over three years shows that U.S. automakers are continuing to gain on leaders Toyota and Honda, and that most luxury import brands are declining in long-term quality.
Power executives have been saying that its Vehicle Dependability Study has become more important to consumers than its Initial Quality Study, which measures complaints in the first three months ownership. That's because the differences in initial quality among most car companies has become relatively small and auto companies have gotten good at eliminating problems that would hurt them in that study.
In fact, Power sells its services to automakers, running new models through a gauntlet of its own design to identify problems that will cost it points in the IQS, and which automakers can fix before the cars wind up in customer driveways.
Three years of ownership, though, reveals problems that get fixed or at least covered up when the vehicle is new.
"Maintaining very high levels of quality off the assembly line as well as three years later...is no small feat," says Power's Joe Ivers.
While General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all posted improvements from last year, GM is the only domestic automaker to score above the industry average at 262 problems per 100 vehicles. The industry average improved to 269 problems, versus 273 last year. GM's Buick and Cadillac brands scored better than Toyota-brand vehicles.
Consumers have come to assume that the study shows that Caddy and Buicks are better quality than
Ford VP of quality Louise Goeser called Ford's improvement of 12 problems per 100 vehicles "a great improvement," and said it underscores Ford's commitment to reverse the quality problems it suffered in the last five years.
Though Ford is below industry average, behind GM, and a long way off from matching
Import luxury cars generally scored worse compared with last year and the year before. BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar and Land Rover and Saab all scored worse, with Ford's Jaguar worsening by 63 problems per 100 and Land Rover falling by 31 problems. Land Rover officials said Tuesday that the survey reflects Land Rovers designed and manufactured either by the Rover Group or BMW, which owned Rover in the mid-1990s. The company, now a unit of Ford and never known for quality, will climb out of the cellar starting in 2006 when the all-new 2003 Range Rover is counted and in 2008 when the LR3 is counted.
Jaguar improved this year in IQS from tenth to third. "We hope that is an indication of improvements in VDS going forward," said Jaguar spokeswoman Rose Marinello.
Among the highlights of the study:
-Lexus topped the list for the tenth straight year.
-Kia was most improved brand since last year, bettering its score by 77 problems per 100 vehicles, but still scoring next-to-last ahead of just Land Rover.
-Audi was most improved luxury make, scoring 23 fewer problems per 100 vehicles since last year's study.
-The Honda Odyssey was top ranked minivan. The Toyota MR2 Spyder was top ranked sporty car, while Honda S2000 topped the premium sports car segment.