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J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Despite Continuing Challenges with In-Vehicle Technology, Automakers Post a Strong Improvement in Initial Quality

June 20, 2012

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., June 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — As the U.S. automotive industry continues to recover, vehicle manufacturers post the strongest improvement in initial quality since 2009 and are producing higher-quality vehicles than ever before, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS) released today.

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Overall initial quality for the industry improves by 5 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) to average 102 PP100 in 2012–an improvement of 5 percent from 2011. There are year-over-year gains in most areas of initial quality, with one notable exception–audio, entertainment, and navigation problems have increased by 8 percent from 2011. This continues a recent trend, as problems in this category have increased by 45 percent since 2006 while other categories have improved by 24 percent, on average.

As manufacturers introduce increasingly sophisticated multimedia systems designed to enhance the ownership experience, owners more frequently cite these systems as a source of quality problems. For the first time in the 26-year history of the study, owners report more problems related to audio, entertainment, and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area. This is driven in part by a rapid increase in the fitment of new technology, such as voice recognition on mainstream models.

“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.”

Specifically, the number of owner-reported problems with factory-installed hands-free communication devices has increased 137 percent during the past four years. In fact, hands-free devices not recognizing commands has become the most-often-reported problem in the industry.

“As smartphones become ubiquitous in the lives of consumers and are ever-more sophisticated, expectations about the complementary technologies being offered in new models will only get higher,” said Sargent. “Automakers and suppliers are working hard to meet those expectations with systems intended to make the driving experience safer, more convenient and more entertaining. However, the most innovative technology in the world will quickly create dissatisfaction if owners can’t get it to work.”

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Of the 34 brands ranked in the 2012 IQS, 26 have improved from 2011, five have declined, one scores the same as in 2011 and two were not included in the 2011 study.
  • Of the 185 models ranked in both the 2012 and 2011 IQS, 65 percent have improved.
  • The average quality of all-new or redesigned models improves 12 percent compared with 2011, with eleven all-new or redesigned models performing better than their segment average.

The Initial Quality Study, now in its 26th year, serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study is used extensively by manufacturers worldwide to help them design and build better models and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions. Initial quality has been shown throughout the years to be an excellent initial indicator of long-term durability, which directly impacts consumer purchase decisions. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories: design-related problems and defects and malfunctions.

2012 IQS Ranking Highlights
Lexus is the highest-ranked nameplate in the industry for a second consecutive year, averaging 73 PP100. With 75 PP100 each, Jaguar and Porsche follow Lexus in a tie to rank second. Jaguar posts the largest improvement in the study–reducing problems by 39 PP100 and vaulting from the 20th rank position in 2011. Cadillac (80 PP100) and Honda (83 PP100) round out the top five rank positions.

Among the 21 model-level segment awards, Ford and Lexus receive three each. Ford earns awards for the Expedition, Mustang and Taurus, and Lexus garners awards for the ES 350, LS and RX. Receiving two segment awards each are Infiniti (EX-Series, M-Series); Nissan (Frontier, Quest); and Toyota (Corolla, Yaris). The Porsche 911 ranks highest in the premium sporty segment and achieves 44 PP100, the lowest PP100 score since the study was redesigned in 2006.

Also receiving segment awards are the Buick Enclave; Cadillac Escalade; Chevrolet Malibu; GMC Sierra LD; Honda CR-V; Kia Soul; Mazda MX-5 Miata; and Volvo C70.

“While in past years a handful of brands tended to collect numerous segment awards, 14 different brands receive segment awards in 2012–this is only the second time in the history of the study that so many different brands achieved award status,” said Sargent. “This is a positive indication of how widespread high quality is among automakers, with most brands producing a number of models with exceptional quality levels.”

Plant Assembly Line Quality Awards
Honda Motor Company’s Suzuka 3, Mie (Sss) plant in Japan, which produces the Honda CR-Z and Fit, receives the Platinum Plant Assembly Line Quality Award for producing models yielding the fewest defects or malfunctions. Plant awards are based solely on average levels of defects and malfunctions and exclude design-related problems.

Among plants in the North/South America region, the Toyota Motor Corporation Cambridge South, Ontario, plant, which produces the Lexus RX, receives a Gold Plant Assembly Line Quality Award.

In the Europe and Africa region, Volvo receives a Gold Plant Assembly Line Quality Award for the Uddevalla, Sweden, plant, which produces the Volvo C70 in a joint venture with Pininfarina.

The 2012 U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 74,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2012 model-year cars, trucks and multi-activity vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 228-question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate identification of problems and drive product improvement. The study was fielded between February and May 2012.

    2012 Nameplate IQS Ranking
    Problems per 100 (PP100) Vehicles

    Lexus                                              73
    Jaguar                                             75
    Porsche                                            75
    Cadillac                                           80
    Honda                                              83
    Acura                                              84
    Infiniti                                           84
    Toyota                                             88
    Mercedes-Benz                                      96
    BMW                                                97
    Mazda                                              97
    GMC                                                99
    Nissan                                             99
    Ram                                                99
    Chevrolet                                         100
    Industry Average                                  102
    Audi                                              105
    Buick                                             106
    Hyundai                                           107
    Kia                                               107
    Lincoln                                           107
    Volvo                                             108
    Subaru                                            109
    Jeep                                              110
    Suzuki                                            115
    Chrysler                                          116
    Scion                                             117
    Ford                                              118
    Land Rover                                        119
    Dodge                                             124
    Mitsubishi                                        124
    Volkswagen                                        124
    MINI                                              139
    Fiat                                              151
    smart                                             151

Top Three Models per Segment
Car Segments

Sub-Compact Car
Highest Ranked: Toyota Yaris
Honda Fit
Mazda MAZDA2

Compact Car
Highest Ranked: Toyota Corolla
Toyota Prius
Honda Civic

Compact Sporty Car
Highest Ranked: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Volkswagen Eos
Scion tC

Compact Premium Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Volvo C70
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet/Coupe

Entry Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Lexus ES 350
Acura TL
Lincoln MKZ

Midsize Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Infiniti M-Series
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan/Wagon

Midsize Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Ford Mustang
Dodge Challenger

Large Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Lexus LS
Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Porsche Panamera

Midsize Car
Highest Ranked: Chevrolet Malibu
Ford Fusion (tie)
Honda Accord (tie)

Large Car
Highest Ranked: Ford Taurus
Toyota Avalon
Chrysler 300 Series

Premium Sporty*
Highest Ranked: Porsche 911
BMW 6 Series

Top Three Models per Segment
Truck/Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV) Segments

Compact Crossover SUV
Highest Ranked: Honda CR-V
Toyota RAV4
Toyota FJ Cruiser

Compact MPV*
Highest Ranked: Kia Soul
Toyota Prius v

Entry Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Infiniti EX-Series
Acura RDX
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class

Midsize Crossover SUV
Highest Ranked: Buick Enclave
Honda Crosstour
Honda Pilot (tie)
Jeep Grand Cherokee (tie)
Nissan Murano (tie)
Toyota Highlander (tie)

Large Crossover SUV
Highest Ranked: Ford Expedition
GMC Yukon
Chevrolet Tahoe

Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Lexus RX
Infiniti FX-Series
Cadillac SRX

Large Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Cadillac Escalade
Infiniti QX56
Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Large Pickup
Highest Ranked: GMC Sierra LD
Chevrolet Silverado HD
Chevrolet Avalanche (tie)
Nissan Titan (tie)

Midsize Pickup*
Highest Ranked: Nissan Frontier
Honda Ridgeline

Minivan
Highest Ranked: Nissan Quest
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Sienna

*No other model in this segment performs above or equal to the segment average.

    2012 Assembly Plant Quality Award Recipients
    Based on Models Produced for U.S. Market

    Award                                                                             PP100               Model(s) Produced at Plant
                                                                           (defects/malfunctions only)
    Platinum Award
    Honda Motor Company Suzuka 3, Mie Japan (Sss)                                                      22 Honda CR-Z, Honda Fit

    Americas
    --------
    Gold Award
    Toyota Motor Corporation Cambridge South,                                                          24 Lexus RX
    Ontario (TMMC)

    Silver Award
    Honda Motor Company Marysville 1, OH (HAM)                                                         26 Acura RDX, Acura TL,
                                                                                                          Honda Accord
    Bronze Award
    Toyota Motor Corporation Woodstock,                                                                27 Toyota RAV4
    Ontario (TMMC)

    Asia Pacific
    ------------
    Silver Award
    Toyota Motor Corporation Kyushu 2,                                                                 24 Lexus ES, Lexus IS,
    Japan (TMK)                                                                                           Lexus RX

    Bronze Award
    Toyota Motor Corporation                                                                           28 Toyota Prius
    Fujimatsu, Japan (TABC)

    Bronze Award
    Toyota Motor Corporation Tsutsumi 2, Japan                                                         28 Toyota Prius

    Europe and Africa
    -----------------
    Gold Award
    Volvo Cars Corporation                                                                             25 Volvo C70
    Uddevalla, Sweden (Pininfarina)

    Silver Award
    Daimler AG East London, South Africa                                                               28 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    Silver Award
    Daimler AG Sindelfingen 2, Germany                                                                 28 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class,
                                                                                                          Mercedes-Benz S-Class
    Silver Award
    Porsche AG Stuttgart, Germany                                                                      28 Porsche 911, Porsche
                                                                                                          Boxster, Porsche Cayman

    Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS)

About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company providing performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions. The company’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies
McGraw-Hill announced on September 12, 2011, its intention to separate into two public companies: McGraw-Hill Financial, a leading provider of content and analytics to global financial markets, and McGraw-Hill Education, a leading education company focused on digital learning and education services worldwide. McGraw-Hill Financial’s leading brands include Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, S&P Capital IQ, S&P Indices, Platts energy information services and J.D. Power and Associates. With sales of $6.2 billion in 2011, the Corporation has approximately 23,000 employees across more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.

J.D. Power and Associates Media Relations Contacts:
John Tews; Troy, Mich.; (248) 680-6218; media.relations@jdpa.com

Syvetril Perryman; Westlake Village, Calif.; (805) 418-8103; media.relations@jdpa.com

No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the information in this release without the express prior written consent of J.D. Power and Associates. www.jdpower.com/corporate

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