There’s good news, more good news, and a shade of concerning news for family car buyers in the results from the latest annual vehicle dependability survey from J.D. Power and Associates.
Ford Motor Company’s Lincoln brand topped Toyota Motor Company’s Lexus division for the best overall score in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. Lincoln models performing well in the study include the Lincoln MKZ sedan and Navigator SUV.
But the best news is that the study, which examines owner-reported problems and experiences with 2008 model year vehicles during the past 12 months, found that vehicle reliability is improving overall with an average of 151 problems per 100 of the 2008 model year vehicles. If that sounds like a lot – and it probably does to many – it’s actually the lowest rate of problems since the firm launched the study in 1990. In the 2010 study, which surveyed owners of 2007 model year vehicles, there was an average of 155 problems per 100 vehicles.
After Lincoln and Lexus, with scores of 101 and 104 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively, Jaguar came in at number three spot with 112. Porsche was number four with 114 and Toyota – despite recent recalls (which did not impact 2008 model year vehicles) – came in fifth with 122. Buick, Cadillac and Ford were above average with fewer than 151 problems per 100 vehicles. Six Asian brands were above average: Acura, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Lexus and Toyota.
The make/model with the fewest problems was Porsche 911 sports car with 68 problems per 100 vehicles.
The bottom five manufacturers on the list (scores in parentheses): Chrysler (202), Dodge (206), Land Rover (212), Jeep (214), and MINI (221).
So, that’s good news and more good news. What’s the concerning news? As automakers have introduced technology and safety features, whether to satisfy customer demand or to meet federally-mandated standards, scores have dropped due to increased problems. These affect safety systems such as tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), which was federally-mandated for all cars beginning with the 2008 model year, as well as electrical features such as audio, entertainment and navigation systems that may be confusing or difficult to operate. According to J.D. Power and Associates, these problems aren’t major, but how well the various manufacturers differentiate such features when they introduce them – and how easy they are to operate – will become more a pervasive issue.
There is a bright spot to technology and features in another area, however. Manufacturers have improved long-term dependability of engines, transmissions, steering and braking, and vehicle interiors.
In individual segments, Toyota takes the lion’s share with seven number one spots. Ford is second with four segment wins, and GM and Honda each take three. Following are the top models and segments per manufacturer.
Lexus RX – Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV
Scion xB – Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle
Toyota 4Runner – Midsize Crossover/SUV
Toyota Prius – Compact Car
Toyota Sienna – Minivan
Toyota Tacoma – Midsize Pickup
Toyota Tundra – Large Pickup
Ford Fusion – Midsize Car
Ford Mustang – Midsize Sporty Car
Lincoln MKZ – Entry Premium Car
Lincoln Navigator – Large Premium Crossover/SUV
Buick Lucerne – Large Car
Cadillac DTS – Large Premium Car
Chevrolet Tahoe – Large Crossover/SUV
Acura RL – Midsize Premium Car
Honda CR-V – Compact Crossover/SUV
Honda Fit – Sub-Compact Car
Other segment winners included the BMW X3 in Entry Premium Crossover/SUV, Mazda MX-5 Miata in Compact Sporty Car and Mercedes-Benz CLK in Compact Premium Sporty Car.
For reviews of any of the makes/models mentioned here, see TheCarConnection.