Overall vehicle dependability has improved from 2010, with automakers succeeding in reducing problem rates in many traditional areas, but experiencing some challenges in overcoming problems with newer technologies and features, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study released Thursday.
The study, which measures problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old (2008 model year) vehicles, includes 202 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. Overall dependability is determined by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.
In 2011, overall vehicle dependability averages 151 PP100—the lowest problem rate since the inception of the study in 1990—and improves from 170 PP 100 in 2009. Between 2009 and 2011, annual improvement for the industry has averaged 6 percent, which is slightly lower than historical rates of improvement. During the past decade, industry improvement has averaged 8 percent each year.
The slowdown in improvement is largely attributable to increased rates of problems with electronic features in vehicles, including audio, entertainment and navigation systems and new safety features, such as tire pressure monitoring systems.
Highest-Ranked Nameplates and Models
For the first time since the inception of the study, Lincoln leads the overall nameplate rankings in 2011. Lincoln improves by 13 PP100 from 2010. Lexus follows Lincoln in the nameplate rankings. Rounding out the top five nameplates are Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota. The Porsche 911 has the fewest problems in the industry, with just 68 PP100.
Toyota Motor Corporation continues to perform well in long-term dependability and garners seven segment awards—more than any other automaker in 2011—for the Lexus RX, Scion xB, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Prius, Toyota Sienna, Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra. Ford Motor Company receives four model awards for the Ford Fusion, Ford Mustang,
Lincoln MKZ and Lincoln Navigator. General Motors (Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, and Chevrolet Tahoe) and Honda Motor Company (Acura RL, Honda CR-V and Honda Fit) each receive three awards. In addition, the following models also receive awards: BMW X3, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Mercedes-Benz CLK.
The study finds that while domestic brands have closed the gap in initial quality with import brands, there is still a considerable difference between the two in vehicle dependability, with import brands outperforming domestic brands by 18 PP100 in 2011. This is consistent with findings of the 2008 Initial Quality Study, which examined the models included in
the 2011 VDS after 90 days of ownership. While domestic brand cars have fewer problems (135 PP100, on average) than import brand cars (147 PP100, on average), trucks and crossover vehicles (1) of import brands have considerably fewer problems than those of domestic brands.
In addition to affecting brand image and brand loyalty, long-term dependability also has a notable effect on dealership service and customer service spending. As the number of problems experienced increases, owners are increasingly likely to use non-dealer service facilities for paid service work. In addition, as the number of problems increases, the percentage of owners who say they "definitely will" return to their dealer for service diminishes. Among owners who indicate they have experienced no problems, 76 percent indicate they "definitely will" return to the dealer for paid service. This proportion decreases to 42 percent among owners who say they experienced six or more problems.
The 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 43,700 original owners of 2008 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded between October and December 2010.
(1) The truck category includes both pickup trucks and vans, while the crossover vehicle category includes crossover vehicles, multi-purpose vehicles and utility vehicles.
2011 Nameplate Ranking (Problems per 100 Vehicles)
Industry Average 151
Land Rover 212
Top Three Models per Segment
Highest Ranked: Honda Fit
Highest Ranked: Toyota Prius
Hyundai Elantra Sedan
Compact Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Midsize Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Ford Mustang
Highest Ranked: Ford Fusion
Highest Ranked: Buick Lucerne
Compact Premium Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked: Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class
Entry Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Lincoln MKZ
Lexus ES 350
Acura TL (tie)
Acura TSX (tie)
Midsize Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Acura RL
Large Premium Car*
Highest Ranked: Cadillac DTS
*No other model in this segment performs above the segment average.
NOTE: For a segment award to be issued, there must be at least three models with sufficient sample that comprise 80 percent of market sales within an award segment. There are only two premium sporty models with sufficient sample size, thus no premium sporty awards have been presented.
Top Three Models per Segment
Truck/Multi-Purpose Vehicle/Crossover/SUV Segments Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle*
Highest Ranked: Scion xB
Chrysler PT Cruiser
Highest Ranked: Honda CR-V
Entry Premium Crossover/SUV*
Highest Ranked: BMW X3
Highest Ranked: Toyota 4Runner
Hyundai Santa Fe
Highest Ranked: Chevrolet Tahoe
Highest Ranked: Toyota Tundra
Ford F-150 LD
Ram 1500 LD
Highest Ranked: Toyota Tacoma
Highest Ranked: Toyota Sienna
Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked: Lexus RX
Lexus GX 470
Large Premium Crossover/SUV*
Highest Ranked: Lincoln Navigator