By on June 17, 2010

Cars are getting better and better. But wait! For the first time since 2007, the quality of new cars and trucks sold in the US slipped! OMG! Let’s hunt down the villains …  (Quality of your brand after the jump.)

J.D.Power released its U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS). Says JDP:

“Overall, the industry average for initial quality is 109 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2010, increasing slightly from 108 PP100 in 2009. However, initial quality for domestic brands as a whole has improved by 4 PP100 in 2010 to an average of 108 PP100-slightly better than the initial quality of import brands, which averages 109 PP100 in 2010.”

Understood? No?

Last year it was 108 complaints per 100 cars. This year it’s 109.

So who’s the oinker that ruined the stats? Could only be one company: “Dragged down by Toyota Motor Corp., the quality of new cars and trucks sold in the United States slipped slightly this year,” writes Automotive News [sub].

A check of the JDP press release doesn’t bear that out, at least not at first glance. It states that “Toyota’s problem count increases by 16 PP100, moving it from sixth rank position in 2009 to 21st in 2010.” Ouch. That should create trouble in Tokyo.

“Clearly, Toyota has endured a difficult year,” said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Recent consumer concerns regarding Toyota’s quality are reflected in the nameplate’s performance in the 2010 study. That said, Toyota’s success was built on a well-deserved reputation for quality, and there is little doubt that they will do everything possible to regain that reputation.”

Detroit’s carmakers have to that Ford for catching up with their import rivals. Ford is on #4, behind Porsche, Acura, Mercedes and Lexus. Lincoln is on place 8. The rest of the Detroit gang is still below industry average.

2010 J.D. Power IQS Nameplate Ranking

Rank Nameplate Problems per 100 vehicles
1 Porsche 83
2 Acura 86
3 Mercedes-Benz 87
4 Lexus 88
5 Ford 93
6 Honda 95
7 Hyundai 102
8 Lincoln 106
9 Infiniti 107
10 Volvo 109
Industry Average 109
11 Ram 110
12 Audi 111
13 Cadillac 111
14 Chevrolet 111
15 Nissan 111
16 BMW 113
17 Mercury 113
18 Buick 114
19 Mazda 114
20 Scion 114
21 Toyota 117
22 Subaru 121
23 Chrysler 122
24 Suzuki 122
25 GMC 126
26 Kia 126
27 Jeep 129
28 Dodge 130
29 Jaguar 130
30 Mini 133
31 Volkswagen 135
32 Mitsubishi 146
33 Land Rover 170

It will be a rude awakening in Wolfsburg tomorrow, when Martin Winterkorn will call a meeting of all chiefs and ask them how in the world it could happen that VW is near the bottom of the verdammte list, schon wieder!

I know what the answer will be, I was in those meetings: “Look, Herr Doktor, we know it looks bad. But if you analyze the numbers, we are less than 24 percent below industry average, and if you apply a margin of error of 5 percent, we could be better than Jaguar. Nicht wahr?” It’s not going to work. It never did.

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35 Comments on “Heavens! Car Quality Slips, Survey Says...”

  • avatar

    How about that, the first time since 2007! Was 2007 that long ago?

    TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey has found much improvement for some VW and Audi models, but the MkVI Golf and GTI have had a few first-year problems. For example, the new TDIs often have faulty O2 sensors. Could this have had much impact on VW’s IQS score? It’s not possible to say because of the limited amount of information J.D. Power publicly releases.

    TrueDelta’s current stats:

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t that mean 109 complaints per 100 cars (instead of 109 complaints per car, as stated in the article)? I’m pretty sure that you’d be hard-pressed to find any relatively new car with 109 complaints in a single year–and I’m VW owner.

  • avatar

    How do they derive this data? Mercedes at #3? Don’t make me laugh.

  • avatar

    Is this the new and improved JD Power survey that counts brake dust and drive shaft failures as equal quality issues?

    • 0 avatar

      As the press release notes, you can assume that major mechanical problems are rare in the first 90 days.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know about weighting, but the majority of complaints are things that will not cost the consumer money down the road. Most of the complaints seem to be about ease of use, noises, and ergonomics. If you are looking for what vehicle will turn out to cost you the least amount of headaches/money down the road, the IQS is irrelevant. The info is more useful for the manufacturing and design groups to understand what their customers are least satisfied with while using the vehicle on a daily basis. The JD Power dependability study is significantly better at determining overall reliability, but the consumer doesn’t get the level of detail to make an informed decision. If 30% of Altima owners notice “excessive” wind noise after 3 years and 5% of Sonata owners have thrown conrods after 3 years, the Altima is going to have a worse rating. I can tell you which vehicle I’d rather own, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Wind noise is also included in the reliability study. By the same token, reliability study would be useless as well.

  • avatar

    why do we even bother to write about JD Power?

    • 0 avatar

      Because the industry takes it considerably more seriously than you do.

    • 0 avatar

      You make an excellent point, and particularly about the IQS data; there is no weighting of “problems” nor any weighting over expectations. As a trending map, it has some interest and those in the top and bottom quartiles are perhaps newsworthy. As an example of which manufacturer is at the top, it’s nonsense.

      Now if the automakers would release warranty data for comparison, then we’d have a race!

  • avatar

    The survey tells me that on average, all cars have 1 problem during their first 90 days (well 2 for Mitsu and Land Rover).

    What it doesn’t tell us, are these mechanical/electronic failures or just ‘user’ issues. Basically ‘Initial’ quality surveys are almost useless.

  • avatar

    More statistical pornography from JD Power.

    Just because something can be counted, plotted on a graph, and ranked in ascending order doesn’t make it useful information.

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    I never trusted J.D. Power and wonder why a lot of Rating books and others promote them, initial quality be damned, who cares, its over the long run that concerns me!

  • avatar

    I’ve owned Mercedes in the past and currently own 2 of them… a 2005 CLK55 AMG and a 2007 E350 Sport. Only one problem in all the years of ownership, and that problem with the heater fan on a C230 Kompressor was covered under warranty. And that was 1 year and 5 months after the warranty period had ended.

    So I must be the luckiest guy in the world. Or maybe its just karma as I actually believe that the good German people in Stuttgart have and continue to design, engineer and build good cars :-)

    • 0 avatar

      kevnsd, that’s heresy on this site! There’s no way that any post w124 Benz has any credibility. If anyone suggests picking up a lightly used newer Mercedes, they are crazy! They must be hammered with the oft repeated but rarely substantiated claims that Mercedes just “isn’t what it used to be” and yours will be forever in the shop. Just buy a damn Camry, or maybe a Genesis, or a Panther, or a 77 Impala…just don’t buy that German crap!

  • avatar

    The only Honda I ever owned had 7 initial problems on Day Two (05 Odyssey, new then), including a broken power sliding door, broken L & R turn signals, suspension misalignment, broken cupholder, broken rear seat release, and a badly misaligned interior panel.

    So much for averages. For every one of me, there would have been about 7 or 8 people with no problems.

  • avatar

    Especially with the quality levels what they are across the board a survey for the first 90 days of ownership is useless. As mentioned it’s amazing how manufacturers tout JD Power and to be certain I’m sure the vast majority of potential buyers don’t have a clue the survey is for the first 90 days of ownership.

    Congrats to JD Powers for making a fortune off of this nonsense.

  • avatar

    This IQS survey is for the first 90 days. If you complain because there are water spots on the car or the dash has dust, you get dinged.

    The IQS is a POS. Useless information that JD Power gets a lot of attention for, but contains little useful data.

  • avatar

    the differences are so small between most of these vehicles that it seems statistically insignificant… though what’s with Land Rover way out there in no-man’s land?

    A great deal of this IQS score seems as if it would be affected greatly by a dealer’s pre-delivery inspection and ability to spend some time really looking car over well.

    My 2010 VW Golf is about flawless, but when I took delivery the dome light was faulty and didn’t come on when the door was opened at night. They had to replace the part. It’s not a serious issue and it doesn’t really make me think less of the car, but it could have been caught and fixed without me ever noticing it… though PDIs are rarely done in the dark where one would notice the light not coming on.

  • avatar

    Thank HEAVENS I totaled my Jetta a month ago. Though I am a bit disappointed how low Subaru ranked. I have only heard rave review about them, so I bought an Impreza.

  • avatar

    Does anybody actually give credence to J.D Power?

  • avatar

    What I can’t figure out is how Porsche came out on top. They have a new model (Panamera) and their high-volume seller (Cayanne) is a very complicated SUV sharing some VW parts. I guess the Cayanne had a few years of debugging, but I can’t see how that vehicle could have a low complaint rate.

  • avatar

    Is initial quality even relevant? More and more people (like me I admit) will only buy used. Sometimes CPO, sometimes not. And most cars on the road today are not under any kind of warranty. What would be useful is information on repairs and problems in years 3-7 of a car’s life.

    Mostly all we get is anectdotal information. “Audis have electrical problems”, “VWs have that and then some”. “MBs will live in the shop”, “BMWs too”. “A Lexus will go 100k on oil changes alone”. Most people don’t read these sites and buy what they like. My neighbor is a late 40′s exec and she loves her 328xi. I doubt that she even knows that it has run-flat tires she’s supposed to hate. Yet I’m wary of the things, and the C300 I really like. So much so that I’m considering an ES350 even though it drives just a bit better than a Camry.

    I’d like to see a site like this that just bought and did six month+ reviews of 2-3 year old cars coming off lease. That market is huge.

  • avatar

    “Overall, the industry average for initial quality is 109 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2010, increasing slightly from 108 PP100 in 2009. However, initial quality for domestic brands as a whole has improved by 4 PP100 in 2010 to an average of 108 PP100-slightly better than the initial quality of import brands, which averages 109 PP100 in 2010.”

    I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but I added up all the numbers and divided by 33 and got an average of 115 not 109.

  • avatar

    I have to assume that those of you who don’t see the value of the IQS do not and probably have never worked inside the industry, and have no experience with quality management standards and systems–Six Sigma, TQM, or ISO900x, for example. For brevity, let’s just say that it makes for an easily understood and cost effective way to track internal responsiveness to management objectives. It’s also a very marketable statistic assuming it’s better than average–and it just happens to be a method that every significant manufacturer worldwide uses.

    I dunno about you guys, but knowing that all car makers are competing amongst themselves to make the highest-quality cars is considerably more reassuring than the alternative.

  • avatar

    Memo to JDP: ’09 Passat for almost a year now. Never been in the shop except for one “free” routine scheduled maint (and an optional “feel good” out of pocket oil change at 5K). No rattles, no electrical problems. Fit and finish flawless. Obviously I must be overlooking something. This weekend I’ll go out and find some problems, and then report back. Keep the faith.

  • avatar

    New car purchases: 67 VW, 71 240Z, 76 Buick,78 VW Rabbit, 83 Camry, 90 Saab, 00 VW Passat, 04 Honda.

    The only one that had any warranty work in the first year was the Honda, replacement of power steering pump.

    All my other car purchases were used cars out of warranty. Guess I beat the odds as presented by JD Power and Associates.

  • avatar

    If you are looking for what vehicle will turn out to cost you the least amount of headaches/money down the road, the IQS is irrelevant. It’s also a very marketable statistic assuming it’s better than average–and it just happens to be a method that every significant manufacturer worldwide uses.
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