While many studies look at the quality of vehicles soon after they roll off the showroom floor, the real question is how they hold up after a few years on the road. And the answer, according to annual J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, is better than ever.
Almost across the board, reliability showed a large jump – the first improvement since 2013 – though some manufacturers did notably better than others. For the seventh consecutive year, the Japanese luxury brand Lexus led the VDS overall while Buick was tops among mass market brands. Chrysler lagged at the back of the pack, with nearly twice as many problems as those two rivals, but it also showed some improvement.
“For the most part, automotive manufacturers continue to meet consumers’ vehicle dependability expectations,” said Dave Sargent, the head of automotive practices as J.D. Power and Associates. “A 9% improvement is extremely impressive, and vehicle dependability is, without question, at its best level ever. For people looking for a new or used model, now is a good time to find that special vehicle.”
Unlike its Initial Quality Study, which examines “problems” motorists experience during the first 90 days of ownership, the VDS asks them to report the issues they’ve had after three years on the road, meaning the latest study focuses on 2015 models. During the past year, on average, owners experienced 142 problems per 100 vehicles, — 142 PP100 in Power-speak – down from 156 in last year’s study.
(Click Here to see who’s tops – and lagging at the bottom – of the latest Power IQS.)
Lexus led both overall and in the luxury category with a mere 99 PP100. To put that into perspective, that would be a near industry-leading number if it were measuring brand new vehicles. Porsche ranked second in the luxury second with 100 PP100.
On the mass market side, Buick came in tops, with 116 problems per 100. Kia followed with 124 PP100. The two mainstream marques have been challenging traditionally more reliable luxury brands in recent years. In fact, Kia has led the industry overall for the last two years in Power’s Initial Quality Study.
Chrysler anchored the latest dependability study with an average 211 problems, with the rest of the Fiat Chrysler family – including Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Fiat all scoring well below industry average. That said, with a score of 192, Sargent noted that Fiat was the most improved brand, with a whopping 106 fewer problems, on average, than its vehicles had in the 2017 VDS. And Dodge actually had its best-ever performance.
“FCA US values feedback from our customers and third-party evaluators, including J.D. Power whose recent report reflects a survey of 2015 model-year (MY) vehicles,” said Fiat Chrysler in a statement responding to the new study. The statement tried to soften the results by noting that the Chrysler brand’s poor performance was largely due to issues with the old Chrysler 200 sedan which has since been dropped from production.
Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, also had reason to crow, posting the biggest improvement in rank, moving from 29th to 4th this year, among the 31 brands included in the latest Vehicle Dependability Study. Nissan itself also had its best-ever ranking. With an average 133 PP100, it also ranked above the 142-problem industry average.
Toyota, a brand often known for quality, ranked ninth overall and fifth among mainstream brands. More significantly, its individual models led in six of the nine specific product categories, more than any other manufacturer. That included the Prius, the top-ranked Compact Car, and its Tacoma, the leading Midsize Pickup.
(Asian automakers dominate in latest Consumer Reports reliability study. Click Here for more.)
General Motors was close behind, with five segment winners. And even the lagging Chrysler brand could claim some vindication, its Town & Country minivan coming in second, just behind the Honda Odyssey, in the minivan category.
(America’s love affair with the car isn’t over, finds latest J.D. Power APEAL study. Click Here for more.)
Here are the winners of the 2018 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study’s 19 individual car, crossover and truck categories.