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Toyota Leads as Vehicle Dependability, Overall, Rises Sharply

But perceptions still lag reality for many brands.

by on Feb.15, 2012

2010 Lexus LS 600h L

The 2009 Lexus LS was ranked tops by the latest JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study.

Toyota and its Lexus luxury brand dominate the latest Vehicle Dependability Study, according to J.D. Power and Associates, though the annual VDS study shows that today’s cars, on the whole, are proving more reliable than ever.

But the Power report also reveals that perceptions continue to lag reality for some brands that have made major gains in recent years.

Of the 32 brands covered by the 2012 Vehicle Dependability Study, 25 showed improvements year-over-year, with five declining and one holding steady.  What’s particularly significant is that the latest survey focuses on vehicles built during the depths of the automotive industry’s worst downturn in decades, said Power Vice President David Sargent.

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“Despite facing immense challenges in 2009, automakers placed a keen focus on delivering outstanding levels of quality, which they understood would be essential to their long-term success,” noted Sargent, adding that, “Three years later, owners of these models are enjoying unprecedented levels of vehicle dependability.”

Lexus topped the charts in the 2012 VDS among all 32 nameplates, while its flagship LS sedan was tops among individual models.  Rounding out the top five brands were: Porsche, Cadillac, Toyota and Scion.  In fact, Scion and Mini were the most improved brands compared to 2011.

Toyota took top honors in eight individual categories – including the Lexus and Scion brands – more than any other maker.  Ford came in close behind, with five category wins for products including the Ford Explorer SUV and midsize Fusion sedan.  General Motors and Nissan each took top honors in two categories.

Overall, vehicle dependability is at an all-time high, according to Power, based on looking at vehicles purchased during the 2009 model-year.  Measured according to the number of problems owners reported per 100 vehicles, Power found a 13% improvement during the last year, with the average vehicle generating 132 problems per 100, or 132 PP100 in Power-speak.

Significantly, domestic models are improving faster than their import rivals.  In 2011, Detroit products averaged 18 problems more than their import rivals. This year that narrowed to just 13 PP100.  But that doesn’t mean Detroit makers – or some of the improving import brands are necessarily getting credit for their gains, Power analysts stressed.

“Consumer perceptions of vehicle quality and dependability are often based on historical experiences or anecdotes and may be out of line with the current reality,” noted Power’s VDS summary, suggesting consumers should do as much homework as possible before making a purchase.

The good news for motorists is that the improvement in vehicle dependability should also translate into improved residuals – or trade-in values – “If your vehicle has been properly maintained and is in good working condition,” Power noted.

The 2012 Vehicle Dependability Study was based on responses from more than 31,000 owners who purchased their cars, trucks and crossovers during the 2009 model-year.



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