Overall Auto Industry Improves With Lexus Leading In Quality
June 21, 2012

Overall Auto Industry Improves With Lexus Leading In Quality

John Neumann for redOrbit.com

Toyota´s luxury brand Lexus tops the latest J.D. Power & Associates survey of new car owners citing the fewest problems per 100 vehicles. Lexus was followed by two other high-end carmakers, Jaguar and Porsche for second place, with Cadillac and Honda rounding out the top five, writes Tom Krishner, AP Auto Writer.

Despite the increase in quality and owner satisfaction scores posted by most automakers, there is a growing number of complaints about in-car technologies intended to allow hands-free navigation, communication and, increasingly, social media updating.

A generation of drivers have long been accustomed to always-connected mobile devices and  they are demanding the same level of performance from similar equipment in their vehicles and they are increasingly frustrated with the results.

Issues with setting up and using electronic equipment increased 8 percent from last year and now represent the single biggest area of dissatisfaction with new models. While complaints in other categories have decreased 24 percent since 2006, problems with electronics have grown 45 percent in the same time period.

“Almost no manufacturer has solved that riddle yet,” David Sargent, head of auto research for J. D. Power, told Bill Vlasic of the New York Times. “It´s a collective learning experience that the industry is going through.”

Sargent presented the results of his firm´s 2012 survey of initial auto quality on Wednesday at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association. The study evaluates problems that consumers experience during the first 90 days of ownership.

Seventy-four thousand people who bought or leased 2012 models were polled about how reliable their vehicles were and whether they had problems with knobs, switches, electronics and other items in the first 3-months of ownership.

This year´s report shows that, on average, consumers report 102 problems per 100 vehicles, a 5 percent improvement over last year and the strongest year-over-year gain since 2009, when many car companies were struggling with financial problems that prompted cutbacks in product development.

Ford Motor Company was the most aggressive with installing dashboard touch-screen equipment in its mainstream models. However Ford brand dropped from fifth in the overall J. D. Power rankings to 23rd, as customers reported numerous problems in their MyFord Touch systems.

This year, Ford ranked 27th among all brands surveyed, in part because of continuing problems with the Touch systems. In March, the company sent software upgrades to 377,000 owners of Ford and Lincoln products to make the technology simpler to use, but the upgrades were distributed after the survey was completed in February.

Ford said on Wednesday that future quality surveys should reflect the improvements from the software upgrades. “We remain absolutely committed to continuously improving our vehicles,” explained company spokesman Said Deep.

Sargent declined to specify which manufacturers other than Ford had quality scores that were dragged down by electronic troubles. But he said Ford´s broad introduction of touch-screen systems was bound to generate the biggest objection from consumers. “In essence, Ford kind of took one for the team,” Sargent said. “They went big and they went early. But there are other manufacturers out there having issues that are just not as well known.”

Coming in around the bottom of the survey was the Dodge division of Chrysler, the Japanese automaker Mitsubishi, the German car brand Volkswagen and BMW´s Mini division.

In last place, at 151 problems per 100 vehicles, were the microcar Smart and the Italian brand Fiat, which is just re-entering the American market after being absent for decades.

The best overall single vehicle in the survey was the Porsche 911, which led the premium sporty segment. Sargent said it was “probably the best vehicle we´ve ever seen in the study.”