The two newest additions to the J.D. Power IQS, Fiat and Smart, are tied for last place in the survey, at 151 PP100. This result is magnified, says J.D. Power, due to the fact that both only offer one single model--so launch issues are brought to the fore. For the Fiat 500, the majority of issues are with functionality of interior elements. Smart's issues are glossed over--likely indicating a general distaste.
A total of 74,759 surveys were returned in this year's IQS, covering 34 brands and 209 models, with responses weighted on the basis of sales--the more of a vehicle is sold, the more it counts toward a brand's score.
In the study, 228 problems are documented, grouped into eight categories: Driving Experience, Interior, Exterior, Features/Controls/Displays, Engine/Transmission, Audio/Entertainment/Navigation, Seats, and HVAC (climate control systems).
Technology Rising To The Top
Technology is increasingly becoming an important factor in overall IQS score. Audio/Entertainment/Navigation comprises 16 percent of overall problems, up from 9 percent in 2006 and 12 percent in 2010. The problem isn't that the technology is getting worse--it's simply that it's becoming more widespread.
"Until recently, this type of sophisticated technology was found primarily on high-end models" said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, over the past few years it has rapidly found its way into the automotive mainstream. For example, in 2012, more than 80 percent of owners indicate that their new vehicle has some form of hands-free technology."
Younger customers report more problems with technology than older customers. J.D. Power says this is due to higher expectations about ease of use and overall functionality--expectations likely set by their lifelong exposure to consumer electronics.
Ford has taken a hard hit as a result, down at 27th overall and 118 PP100, mostly due to problems with the MyFordTouch system with pre-update software. J.D. Power and Ford expect better results with the recently-released updated software once it spreads more widely through the equipped models.
2012 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study
2012 J.D. Power Initial Quality StudyEnlarge Photo
The Mazda MX-5 tops its segment for sixth year out of seven, though with the entry of the 2013 Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ for next year's study, it will be interesting to see if the mature MX-5 can continue its success against the widely lauded but brand-new cars from Toyota. The Lexus ES 350 repeats last year's class win, and remains one of the most consistently problem-free cars in its class. Ford's Mustang is the most frequent award recipient in its category, and improves this year, despite overall trends in Ford's MyFordTouch system.
Porsche 911 is best vehicle in its segment and in the industry--and quite likely the best quality vehicle J.D. Power has ever seen in the study, according to a J.D. Power spokesman. The Lexus LS is one of the very best vehicles in the industry, carrying on its last 20 years of results, and taking the number two overall initial quality spot in the industry for 2012. The Cadillac Escalade is the third-best vehicle in the industry this year, a very impressive result for Cadillac, which holds the fourth overall spot in initial quality for 2012.
Honda's new CR-V wins its segment, a very impressive result according to J.D. Power, as it's almost unheard of to do so in a launch year. The Honda Civic similarly performed surprisingly well for its first year on the market--though in both cases, critics might argue that the cars, while technically new, were so substantially similar to their predecessors that the results show a lack of change as much as successful new-car design or functionality.
In all, the results across classes, brands, and nations shows the industry as a whole is making vast strides toward producing overall high-quality vehicles. A few brands and models continue to struggle, but compared to the cars of 10 or 20 years ago, it's clear the automotive industry has made leaps and bounds across the board--and that can only mean good things for the car buyer.