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.
-Porsche topped the corporate rankings last year and placed an impressive fourth among individual brands. Porsche went from top automaker last year, ahead of
-The Ford F-150 was the top-ranked pickup. The Chevy Tahoe was top ranked full-size SUV. The Chevy Malibu topped entry mid-size cars including Toyota Camry Honda Accord.
To see the whole VDS, go to //www.thecarconnection.com
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Mercedes-Benz Diesel Cars Rack Sales
2005 Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI
Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for MBUSA, said its still too early to predict demand new but Mercedes-Benz dealers in the
2005 Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI
Geoff Day, MBUSA director of corporate communications, noted Mercedes has sold diesel-powered cars in the
The reintroduction of diesel-powered E-Class is considered a test of the demand for diesel engines, which generally have had a poor image with American consumers, who associate them with heavy-duty trucks rather than passenger vehicles. Prices for the E-Class sedan start at $48,795, but the E-Class with the V-6 diesel engine costs about $1000 more.
Sales of the E-Class models increased 5 percent during May, the first full-month in which the diesel-powered car was available. Overall, Mercedes sales dropped 5 percent last month, according to DaimlerChrysler sales reports. Day added buyers of the diesel model, despite their relative affluence, also are sensitive to the price of fuel. "You get 20 percent more power and 30 percent more fuel efficiency," he said. "What's not to like about the diesel?"
Added Jim Resnick, a Mercedes-Benz spokesman, "We keep hearing all these stories about how people went 715 miles or 750 miles on one tank of gas."
Mercedes-Benz hasn't said if it will offer diesel as an option on other models, such as the C-Class or the M-Class, which will be completely overhauled next year. DaimlerChrysler executives, however, have stressed they believe diesel engines are still a good alternative for American motorists, who are looking for both power and fuel efficiency. The Chrysler Group plans to bring out a diesel-powered version of the Jeep Liberty this fall and has hinted it is looking around for other plans to utilize new diesel technology.
However, DaimlerChrysler can only sell the new diesel-powered vehicles in 45 states. The engines do not meet the tougher air-quality standards now in
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|American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc.||AXL||36.58|
|Ballard Power Systems Inc.||BLDP||9.10|
|Collins & Aikman Corporation||CKC||5.69|
|DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR)||DCX||46.76|
|Dura Automotive Systems||DRRA||8.80|
|Ford Motor Company||F||15.87|
|General Motors Corporation||GM||46.82|
|Goodyear Tire & Rubber||GT||9.14|
|Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR)||HMC||24.48|
|Johnson Controls Inc.||JCI||53.49|
|Magna International Inc.||MGA||84.69|
|Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR)||NSANY||22.14|
|Sonic Automotive Inc.||SAH||22.23|
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|Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR)||TM||81.73|
|TRW Automotive Holdings||TRW||18.83|
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|United Auto Group Inc.||UAG||31.00|
|XM Satellite Radio Hold.||XMSR||26.95|