The Truth About Cars » J.D. Power The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » J.D. Power Subaru Behind Jeep, Ram As Most Off-Roaded Automaker Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:00:37 +0000 green subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

Jeep may be the first thing to come to mind when the idea of going off-road comes up in conversation, but when taking a trip from Los Angeles to that secret pool/art installation in the middle of the desert, you might find a Subaru waiting nearby.

Autoblog reports the automaker’s vehicles are the third most off-roaded in a 2013 J.D. Power study, where 29.5 percent can be found departing the highway for the trail; only Ram and Jeep bested Subaru at 30.2 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Subaru’s director of corporate communications, Michael McHale, added that owners of his company’s offerings were “190 percent more likely to do outdoor activities than other brands,” meriting those treks off the beaten path.

Regarding individual vehicles, the Outback sees the highest use in the dust and mud at 34.7 percent. Meanwhile, most Jeep Grand Cherokee owners prefer the high street over high peaks, with only 21.1 percent deciding to experience just how “trail-rated” their SUVs are. The Outback is also among Subaru’s top three best-selling vehicles in 2013, sandwiched between the Forester and the XV Crosstek as the automaker celebrated its sixth consecutive year of record sales; 424,683 units were sold in the United States alone that year.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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Sonata Quality Issues Drag Down Hyundai, R&D President Returns Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:54:37 +0000 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Just as J.D. Power ranks Hyundai fifth from dead last over quality issues regarding the 2011 Sonata, the automaker’s research and development president, Kwon Moon-sik, returns to the fold three months after quitting over a number of quality issues within the product line.

Automotive News and Reuters report Hyundai holds 27th overall on J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, with 169 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed. Though nothing was specified for the 2011 Sonata or the 2011 Elantra — the other car from 2011 that brought down Hyundai’s rank — the industry overall developed issues with engines and transmissions tied to advanced fuel-efficiency technologies, including turbocharging. The sedan’s issues are magnified due to its groundbreaking design and said technologies, shaking up the otherwise conservative midsize sedan segment on its way to becoming Hyundai’s top-selling vehicle.

Meanwhile, Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo has rehired R&D president Kwon Moon-sik to help right the ship as the next generation Sonata prepares to make its debut in South Korea next month, as the automaker said in a statement:

Given his expertise, experience and leadership skills, we reinstated president Kwon to enhance quality and R&D capability from scratch.

Hyundai also said they expect their dependability ratings to improve next year when the 2012 models are evaluated, though it was “very disappointed” the results of this year’s study, and is “examining every component of the score to determine root-cause solutions” for improving their product line and services.

Kwon, along with two other R&D executives, quit three months earlier over quality issues — such as those affecting the 2011 models — that led to massive recalls in the United States, South Korea and other market. He was also one of the top aides to Chung’s son, Chung Eui-sun. His replacement, Kim Hae-jin, will return to heading powertrain development.

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J.D. Power: Increase In Dependability Problems For 1st Time Since 1998 Thu, 13 Feb 2014 15:00:27 +0000 JD

In a new study by J.D. Power and Associates, the analyst group has found an increase in the average of dependability problems per 100 cars, the first such increase since 1998.

Autoblog reports that the firm’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study found an average of 133 issues per 100 cars made in 2011 among the 41,000 respondents who participated, up 6 percent from 126 problems per 100 cars found in 2010 models in last year’s study. The majority of the issues stem from the drivetrain, particularly those utilizing four-cylinder and diesel engines; five- and six-cylinder powerplants were less problematic.

As for the brands with the least problems, Lexus takes the prize for the third consecutive year with only 68 issues per 100 units, while Mercedes-Benz (104), Cadillac (107), Acura (109) and Buick (112) rounding out the top five.

Among the automakers, General Motors took home eight dependability awards for their 2011 models, including the Volt, Escalade and Lucerne, while Toyota won seven among their trio of brands, and Honda taking home six awards.

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March Sales Forecast: Strong, But No Huge Leaps Thu, 21 Mar 2013 16:28:21 +0000 America remains a rare bright spot in the dark world of car sales. March is expected to be as strong as previous months. J.D. Power / LNC Automotive expects total new-vehicle to come in at 1,465,100 units in March, which would be a 15.3 million SAAR, and a 4.5 percent increase over March 2012.

J.D. Power LMC March Estimate 
( Million units.)
  Mar’13 Feb’13 Mar’12 YoY
Retail 1.16 0.93 1.09 5.9%
Total 1.47 1.19 1.40 4.5%
Retail SAAR 12.10 12.10 11.40 6.1%
Total SAAR 15.30 15.30 14.10 8.5%

The company sees average retail transaction prices up 3 percent to $28,504. Consumers are increasingly getting in hock for a long time: The percentage of retail sales with a 72-month or longer loan is at record levels, reaching 32.1 percent in March 2013, an increase of 30.4 percent from March 2012.

LMC Automotive is holding its 2013 U.S. forecast for total light-vehicle sales at 15.3 million units.

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Generation Why: J.D. Power’s Top Ten Gen Y Vehicles For 2012 Thu, 21 Feb 2013 17:35:00 +0000

Until the research arm of TTAC gets more funding, we’ll have to rely on data from third-parties like J.D. Power. The venerable outfit recently compiled a list of the Top 10 cars with the highest percentage of Gen Y buyers. The results aren’t entirely surprising.

J.D. Power’s definition of Generation Y consists of buyers aged 16-35. Rather than the penniless youngsters mostly covered in this series, their study also takes into account older members of this cohort who are earning much more, with stable career prospects – maybe even families. No surprise then that four door cars, whether sedans or hatchbacks, tend to dominate the list. Of the 10 cars, only one was a domestic and only one came from a luxury brand. The rest were from mainstream imports, with 6 of the 10 from Japanese brands and 3 from the Germans. No Korean cars cracked the list, which at first glance seems surprising. But we’ve heard through the grapevine that Hyundai products, even the Veloster, tend to skew older.  Also missing was Honda, something that would have been unthinkable not too long ago, though Acura was well represented.

10. Acura TSX 

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y:  34.3

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: +0.7%

Comment: The bright spot of Acura’s car lineup. Just premium enough to look successful, but also sensible. Does not have the negative connotations that come with certain luxury brands.

9. Dodge Charger

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 34.7

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: 0.9%

Comment: The lone domestic. Notice there are no Ford hatches here. It looks like a brawny, masculine car…perfect for those who need a family sedan but can’t bear the thought of a CamCord.

8. VW Golf

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 34.7

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: 1.6%

Comment: The “premium” choice for C-segment cars. Not a surprise. The TDI is lumped in with the Golf.

7. VW Jetta

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 35.2

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: 33.9%

Comment: Not a surprise. VW badge has cachet, the price is right.

6. Subaru Impreza

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 37.4

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: -7.1%

Comment: Subaru is a bit of a quirky choice but a darling of the winter sports crowd and those who grew up on Gran Turismo.

5. Mazda3

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 40.2

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: -2.3%

Comment: A good sign for Mazda. The 3 is also seen as a bit of a step up from the usual choices, and Mazda can only benefit from a younger customer base.

4. Acura ILX

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 40.2

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: N/A

Comment: I was wrong here. I panned it for being a silly product with no appeal. These figures don’t tell the whole sales story, but they do tell something.


Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 44.5

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: -0.8%

Comment: Ask any car guy or girl what they’d buy for under $30k and there’s a good chance it’s a GTI. No surprise here.

2. Mitsubishi Lancer

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 48.6

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: 5%

Comment: The Ralliart and EVO are lumped in with Lancer, but it may also have something to do with Mitsubishi’s financing deals. This car is a dog.

1. Scion tC

Percent of 2012 buyers in Gen Y: 50.2

Year-over-year change in Gen Y buyers: -0.4%

Comment: The FR-S gets all the hype, but the tC is top dog. Maybe things will change next year?

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Toyota Beats GM 7:4 In J.D.Power Dependability Study, Volkswagen Decimated Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:17:48 +0000

Toyota swept J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study  with its Lexus brand on top and by earning seven segment awards—more than any other automaker in 2013. General Motors received four segment awards and had Buick in place 6 and Chevrolet barely above average, while Volkswagen is an also-ran.

The study measures long-term dependability of three-year-old models. The dependability of models that were new or substantially redesigned for the 2010 model year averages 116 problems per 100, compared with 133 PP100 for models that were unchanged from the 2009 model-year.

“There is a perception that all-new models, or models that undergo a major redesign, are more problematic than carryover models,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. “Data from the 2013 VDS suggests that this is not the case. The rapid improvement in fundamental vehicle dependability each year is more than offsetting any initial glitches that all-new or redesigned models may have.”

2013 VDS Nameplate Ranking 
Problems per 100 Vehicles
Make             PP100 
Lexus 71
Porsche 94
Lincoln 112
Toyota 112
Mercedes-Benz 115
Buick 118
Honda 119
Acura 120
Ram 122
Suzuki 122
Mazda 124
Chevrolet 125
Industry Average  126
Ford 127
Cadillac 128
Subaru 132
BMW 133
GMC 134
Scion 135
Nissan 137
Infiniti 138
Kia 140
Hyundai 141
Audi 147
Volvo 149
MINI 150
Chrysler 153
Jaguar 164
Volkswagen 174
Jeep 178
Mitsubishi 178
Dodge 190
Land Rover 220

Among the top three automakers, the study will cause sever finger pointing at Volkswagen that finds itself on rank 28 of 32. Even after Volkswagen’s former head of quality assurance, Martin Winterkorn, advanced to CEO, the brand languishes at the bottom of the scale, outclassed by “da scheppert nix” Hyundai and Kia.

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Surprise: Chinese Still Think Lexus is The Best. But Their Own Brands Are Catching Up Wed, 31 Oct 2012 11:31:16 +0000

Chinese domestic brands are being outsold by international brands in China. Their quality is suspect even and especially among the Chinese. This may not last. Domestic brands are catching up fast, says J.D. Power.

Says Dr. Mei Songlin, managing director of J.D. Power China:

“Chinese domestic brands outpace the industry quality improvement in 2012. We are seeing remarkable improvements, particularly in the areas of ease in shifting gears with manual transmission, less incidence of brake dust and improved fuel efficiency. Yet despite this historic milestone for Chinese brands as a whole, no domestic nameplate exceeds the industry average in initial quality.”

Indeed on the 2012 Nameplate IQS Ranking, published today, Chinese domestic brands are nowhere to be seen. Apparently in an attempt to let losers keep face, J.D.Power did not publish the names of brands that came in below industry average in the 2012 China Initial Quality Study.

The ranking is topped by Lexus, with a solid lead before Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Best American brand is Buick, followed by Ford. Chevrolet is nowhere to be seen in the brand ranking. The Chevrolet Sail and Buick GL8 made best in class.

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TrueDelta and J.D. Power IQS updates: how bad are the FIAT 500 and VW Passat? Thu, 21 Jun 2012 15:28:32 +0000

Last March I shared some preliminary car reliability stats for the FIAT 500 and new Volkswagen Passat. The 500 looked very good at the time. The Passat was at the other extreme. Another three months have passed, and TrueDelta’s car reliability stats have been updated to include owner experiences through the end of March 2012. In these updated stats, the FIAT remains excellent while the Passat has improved. But in J.D. Power’s annual Initial Quality Survey (IQS), released yesterday, they’re both awful. What gives?

The 2012 VW Passat isn’t a puzzle. At 73 repair trips per 100 cars per year in TrueDelta’s stats, it’s faring much better lately, but remains about 50 percent worse than the average. We consider this (barely) “yellow” rather than “red” because the average is quite low. J.D. Power isn’t so kind, as its ratings are based on percentiles. If a model is in the bottom 30 percent, it gets the lowest score, two stars. (There is no “one star” score.) The absolute difference between a car’s problem rate and the average problem rate is not a factor. If models are tightly bunched around the average this absolute difference could be quite small even for a “two star” model. We have no way of knowing because numerical stats are not released to the general public.

One other factor: when problems occur. Judging from responses to TrueDelta’s survey, problems with the 2012 Passat seem most prevalent during the first few months of ownership. Now that many owners have had their cars for more than three months, the average repair frequency has improved. But J.D. Power only asks about the first 90 days of ownership. The firm also defines “quality” very broadly, though perhaps not so broadly that a dime store clock counts as a problem.

At 8 repair trips per 100 cars per year, the FIAT 500s in TrueDelta’s survey remain nearly repair-free. J.D. Power, on the other hand, not only gives the 500 two stars, but the FIAT brand (with the 500 its only model so far) tied smart for last:

How might this huge disparity be explained? I checked an active forum for the 500 to see if owners were reporting many problems. Active forums tend to make cars seem more troublesome than they actually are, as people with car problems tend to be vocal while those without them keep quiet. My search found two possibly common problems and one inherent design flaw: a gearshift knob that can break off, a creaky driver’s seat, and an “A/C on” light too dim to see in daylight. The first two were reported by only a few owners on a forum with over 2,000 members. The last was reported by more members, no surprise as it affects every single car. Could this dim light be responsible for the 500’s poor IQS score? Unfortunately, J.D. Power doesn’t publicly divulge the specific problems behind its ratings. Until there’s a fix, this particular problem won’t show up in TrueDelta’s stats. A creaky seat also wouldn’t show up until the owner has it fixed. It’s a minor issue so many might wait until the car needs to go to the dealer for something else. With J.D. Power’s survey, owners can report anything they don’t like about the car, even if they have no plans to have it fixed. Notably, none of these problems suggest that the 500 is a lemon that should be avoided.

A year ago I called Ford out for trying to preempt an upcoming bad IQS ranking by blaming their buggy MyFord Touch (MFT) system. TrueDelta’s survey responses suggested that their cars suffered from additional problems. Well, this year they trotted out the MFT excuse again. The story is a little different this time: the system has been fixed, just too late to help their IQS scores. While MFT is no doubt a major factor behind Ford’s IQS showing, it’s again not the only factor. For example, the Ford Explorer very commonly has problems with rattling A-pillar trim and mirror turn signal condensation. These aren’t major problems, but they have persisted into the car’s second model year. Ford seems to be finding and fixing such problems much more slowly than, say, VW (which aggressively investigated and resolved initial problems with the Passat). More evidence that MFT isn’t solely responsible for Ford’s poor IQS showing: the new Focus scores well in both surveys.

Any survey takes a snapshot at a point in time. Will the VW Passat continue to improve? Might FIAT 500 owners start reporting some truly serious problems? Will Ford start tackling common problems that have nothing to do with MFT now that they’ve (allegedly) fixed the system? TrueDelta will update its car reliability stats again in August. The more people participate, the more models we can cover and the more precise these stats will be.

To view TrueDelta’s updated repair trips per year stats:

Car Reliability Survey results

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability information.

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Forecasters See Strong March Auto Sales Thu, 22 Mar 2012 18:14:40 +0000 Despite rising gasoline prices, America’s newfound appetite for new cars continues. Both J.D. Power and Kelley Blue Book predict very strong auto sales for the month of March.

J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive expect March sales rising 6 percent compared to March 2011. The forecasters see total sales in March rise to 1,372,400 units, up from 1,244,009 vehicles in the same month last year. This would translate into a SAAR of 14.1 million vehicles.

Kelley Blue Book is more aggressive and projects new-vehicle sales to reach 1,425,000 units, or 14.6 million seasonally adjusted sales rate (SAAR), in March 2012. This would be a 14 percent gain from March 2011. This would be the best March since 2007, when industry sales topped 1.5 million units overall. KBB sees especially strong sales for subcompacts.

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America’s Most Dependable Cars Aren’t American Wed, 15 Feb 2012 17:46:55 +0000

Today is a turmoil day in the auto industry. Where brands and cars came in on top of the J.D. Power 2012 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, champagne bottles were uncorked and press releases were issued. Where brands landed in the bottom rungs, panic meetings were called, fingers were pointed and resumes were polished.

Overall, it is a good day for the industry.

Never since 1990 have cars been as dependable. On the average, a car has 1.3 problems in the first three years of ownership. Last year, the number stood at 1.5 problems. 25 of 32 brands have improved in dependability from 2011, only six have declined and one has remained stable. Domestic nameplates have improved in 2012 at a slightly faster rate than imports, narrowing the dependability gap to 13 problems per 100 from 18 problems per 100 in 2011. Still, America’s most dependable cars aren’t American.

Most Dependable Cars per Segment

Sub-Compact Car Toyota Yaris
Scion xD
Honda Fit
Compact Car Toyota Prius
Toyota Corolla
Hyundai Elantra
Compact Sporty Car Scion tC
Midsize Car Ford Fusion
Mitsubishi Galant
Toyota Camry
Large Car Buick Lucerne
Toyota Avalon
Ford Taurus
Entry Premium Car Lexus ES 350 (tie)
Lincoln MKZ (tie)
Acura TL
Midsize Premium Car Hyundai Genesis
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Volvo S80
Compact MPV Scion xB
Compact Crossover/SUV Chevrolet Equinox
Honda CR-V
Toyota RAV4
Midsize Crossover/SUV Ford Explorer (tie)
Nissan Murano (tie)
Toyota Highlander
Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV Lexus RX 350
Lincoln MKX
Midsize Pickup Nissan Frontier
Ford Ranger
Honda Ridgeline
Minivan Toyota Sienna
Honda Odyssey
Large Pickup Toyota Tundra
GMC Sierra HD
Chevrolet Silverado LD

Toyota Motor Corporation received eight segment awards, more than any other automaker in 2012. Ford received three model awards, General Motors and Nissan receive two.

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Chinese Customer Satisfaction Reaches All-Time Ighs Mon, 15 Aug 2011 13:39:52 +0000  

According to (some) conventional wisdom, Chinese cars are made from toxic drywall and are covered with lead paint. A more benign characterization of a Chinese car is “POS” – which is not meant as “point of sale.”

J.D. Power, the global go-to for all matters of customer satisfaction, begs to differ. Chinese have never been happier with their new car, says J.D. Power in a press release titled “New-Vehicle Sales Satisfaction in China Reaches an Historic High in 2011.”

Who are the cars that make Chinese so giddy? If you like American brands, don’t hit the jump. Wait – we found another study that has some red, white and blue. Jump with confidence …

New-vehicle sales satisfaction in China has reached an all-time high, according to the J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2011 China Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, released today. This study does not measure how happy the customer is with the car. Not officially. Officially, “the study measures customer satisfaction with the new-vehicle purchase experience in the China market.” Officially, it rates the dealer, not the car. But as this “study is based on new-vehicle owner evaluations during the first two to six months of ownership,” you can rest assured that unhappiness with the car will influence the grades given to the dealer.

On a 1,000 point scale, Chinese give all their dealers 847 points – that’s pretty darned good. Overall satisfaction with where Chinese buy their cars has climbed 24 points compared with 2010. The top 5 look like former axis powers have won the battle for the hearts and minds of Chinese customers (with Italy, true to form, in hiding): The SSI list is lead by Audi (887 points), followed by Dongfeng Nissan (880), FAW-Volkswagen (869). Dongfeng Honda and GAC Toyota are in a dead heat with 866 points each.

If you want to know how the other brands fared, then you have to go here. If you want to know the exact ranking, you will be disappointed. J.D. Power assigns blobs in the publicly available data. Five blobs for “among the best,” four blobs for “better than most,” three for “about average,” and two blobs for “the rest.” Chevrolet is in the “better than most” camp.  Buick and Ford are rated as “about average,” blob-wise in the same league as Chery and Gleagle, but also as average as Lexus and Mercedes. If you want more than blobs and desire finer grained data: J.D. Power will happily sell you the data. They are in the data selling business.

2011 China J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Rankings

1 Audi Guangqi Honda
2 Dongfeng Nissan Dongfeng Honda
3 FAW-Volkswagen Buick
4 Dongfeng Honda Dongfeng Citroen
5 GAC Toyota SGM-Chevrolet

Did you just say “dealer-schmealer – I want car ratings!” Good point. Just like back home, J.D. Power will sell you a whole alphabet soup of studies in China – but with Chinese characteristics. There is IQS, APPEAL, VDSI, in addition to the SSI and the Chinese Customer Service Index CSI. The 2011 CSI came out a few weeks ago. For the rest, you have to wait a while and budget more money.

China’s satisfaction with dealer service likewise has soared to a record high, up 14 points to 833 overall. And here, we finally see some Americans. The top five are Guangqi Honda (896), Dongfeng Honda (891), Buick (887), Dongfeng Citroen (883) and SGM-Chevrolet (879).  You want blobs? Here they are. You want more? Pay up.

I bet now you really want to know how the cars are rated in China. For that, you will have to wait for the IQS. Or the rest of the alphabet soup. Here, everybody will be a winner. They are broken down into 10 sub-classes each, assuring that nobody uses face.

Pure Chinese brands studiously ignore the J.D. Power ratings anyway. They think they are too expensive and a waste of money. Joint ventures buy the studies, because HQ told them so.

If you have read up to here, please join us in a little TTAC nitpicking: We give the headline “New-Vehicle Sales Satisfaction in China Reaches an Historic High in 2011” a middling three blobs on the TTACGI (The Truth About Cars Correct Grammar Index.) “An historic high” is reached only in France, where they have “istoric ighs.”


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MyTouch Could Sink Ford – On The J.D. Power Ranking Mon, 20 Jun 2011 17:38:07 +0000

On Thursday, the J.D. Power and Associates’ initial quality study will be published. If you pay the hefty fees J.D. Power charges, you get an advance copy, along with much more data than just the list J.D. Power releases to the public.  Last year, Ford ranked highest among all non-luxury brands. It looks like someone is softening the blow that could come from a big drop down the rankings.

According to a report in the Freep, customers have voiced their frustrations with  Ford’s MyTouch in-car technology system. Some call it distracting and complicated. A new PowerShift transmission, available on the Fiesta and Focus, is sometimes called “jerky and unpredictable,” especially at low speeds. Some customers have voiced their frustration with NTHSA.

“I have taken my 2011 Fiesta in at least six times,” one Fiesta owner complained to NHTSA. “On the freeway, the car will shift up and down randomly, to the point that it sounds like the engine will explode.”

Ford spokesman Richard Truett admitted “a few minor teething problems that affected shift quality. But those have long been rectified.”

Major revisions are also under development for Ford MyTouch.

What could help Ford maintain its lofty ranking: “All automakers are struggling with rising consumer expectations as all the connectivity consumers use at home or in offices now migrates into the car,” says the Freep.  “Solving their problems with in-vehicle wireless service requires working with phone makers, software companies and social network businesses whose products have quality challenges of their own.”

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Sell In To The Indians: India To Become World’s Third Largest Auto Market By 2020 Mon, 13 Jun 2011 11:33:33 +0000

A lot has been said about the new car potential of populous India. This time, they mean it, says J.D. Power. India surpassed France, the United Kingdom and Italy to become the sixth-largest automotive market in the world in 2010. In 2020, India is expected to become the world’s third largest auto market. This according to a special report titled “India Automotive 2020: The Next Giant from Asia,” released by J.D. Power and Associates.

More than 2.7 million light vehicles (passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles) were sold in India in 2010, up from just 700,000 light vehicles sold in 2000. J.D. Power expects India to reach 11 million light-vehicle sales by 2020. This would be what Americans bought last year. It would also make India the third-largest light-vehicle market in the world, behind the United States, which J.D. Power projects to return to its former glory of 17.4 million sales in 2020. By that time, J.D. Power expects the Chinese market to reach 35 million light-vehicle sales, double the projected number of the U.S.A.

What is standing in the way of even higher motorization of India? It’s India’s “three deficits:” Continual international trade deficits; chronic government budget deficits; and an underdeveloped power generation and distribution infrastructure. According to J.D. Power, “the country’s lagging infrastructure poses the biggest potential obstacle to future growth.”

Readers who pay attention may think J.D. Power’s numbers are a bit off. India’s 2010 numbers had been reported as 1.87 million, J.D. Power says it was 2.7 million. The official Chinese number for 2010 was 18.06 million, J.D. Power says it was 17.2 million. Where is the confusion?  The 1.87 million reported by the Wall Street Journal for India omitted commercial vehicles. The Chinese number includes commercial vehicles. J.D.Power attempts to replicate the American “light vehicle” count, which often is not officially tracked in other countries.  Cars classified as “commercial vehicles” (trucks, vans, etc. can have a large impact on the count, especially in emerging markets, but also in the U.S.A.  Please refer to my treatise on car counting. And watch out for some wire services, notably the Associated Press, that blatantly report wrong numbers when it comes to pass.

TTAC’s position is that in absence of hard light-vehicle data, the total of all automobiles should be taken. It is much closer to the light vehicle count than passenger vehicles. And most of all, it is the number which the world’s car counting authority OICA uses.

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J.D. Power Projects A Better 2011 Sun, 23 Jan 2011 08:13:41 +0000

Based on stronger than expected early indications, J.D. Power agrees with Edmunds and also predicts a strong January. Based on 11 days of sales, J.D. Power thinks 2011 will be a much better year.  Power up-revised its forecast for total light-vehicle sales in 2011 to 13.0 million units (from 12.8 million units).

J.D. Power sees January total light-vehicle sales to come in at 794,500 units, 14 percent higher than January 2010. Fleet sales are projected to account for 20 percent of total sales (160,000 units.)

J.D. Power and Associates U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons

January 20111 December 2010 January 2010
New-vehicle retail sales 632,100 units
(23% higher than January 2010)
947,821 units 514,633 units
Total vehicle sales 794,500 units
(14% higher than January 2010)
1,142,032 units 697,368 units
Retail SAAR 10.0 million units 10.9 million units 8.1 million units
Total SAAR 12.2 million units 12.5 million units 10.7 million units

1Figures cited for January 2011 are forecasted based on the first 11 selling days of the month.

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17 Million Cars A Year In China? Forget About It Sat, 27 Nov 2010 18:00:23 +0000

People have accused me of irrational exuberance (or worse) when I mentioned that the Chinese auto market could be 17 million or thereabouts this year. Impending bubbles were predicted. Popping bubbles were (erroneously) reported. Gordon Chang, guest of Glenn Beck whenever Beck needs an Asian that says something nasty about China, even offered the theory that the Chinese government  secretly buys most of the cars and hides them somewhere. (For 17 million, the Gobi desert would come in handy, but then there’s Google maps.)  I stuck by my prediction of 17m or thereabouts.

Well, it turns out I was wrong after all.

J.D. Power, echoed by Automotive News [sub], now predicts that auto sales in China (all vehicles, they don’t have the “light vehicle” category) will grow more than 30 percent to 18 million units this year.

It sure looks that way.

In October,  sales were up 27.1 percent for the month. For the first ten months, auto sales had risen 34.76 percent to 14.68m units and production was up 34.49 percent to 14.62m.

J.D.Power calculated the October SAAR for China (which they don’t have, be careful with that word, they might think it’s SARS) at 19.2 million units.

J.D. Power sees the same trend we reported weeks ago: The Chinese government keeps its people guessing as to what will happen with car taxes and other incentives in the new year. Many Chinese decide to lock in the handouts this year instead of hoping for an uncertain future.

China already stepped on the brakes to avoid an overheating of the economy. Therefore the thinking is that the handouts will end in the new year. Which has the reverse effect of further overheating the economy as people mob the showrooms.

If J.D.Power’s projection will come true, then a world record will be broken. The U.S. had sold more than 17 million cars in the beginning of the millennium, but never more than 18 million. Currently, the U.S. is seen to close out the year with sales of 11.5 million.

In 2011 and beyond, J.D. Power expects China’s auto market “will grow at a somewhat lower rate than in 2009 and 2010.” Now that’s a precise prediction! My gut says it will be somewhere between 10-15 percent. Why? Because the Chinese get nervous when growth dips below 10 percent. And mostly because China has a vehicle density of only 63 per thousand (U.S.: 800 per thousand.)  Lots and lots of room to grow in a country wil a population of 1.3 billion (which will mostl likely turn out to be 1.5 billion when they are done counting thise year’s census.)

Run the numbers: At just 15 percent growth, it will be 21 million cars next year and 36 million a year in 2015. That should be enough to make those happy who had the foresight to enter the Chinese market. GM comes to mind. And speaking of GM,  GM China’s CEO Kevin Wale agrees and also predicts 10 to 15 percent growth for next year.

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J.D.Power: EVs Are Hype Thu, 28 Oct 2010 20:08:26 +0000

In a former life, I had worked a bit with J.D. Power. I knew them intimately. We had our issues. This is one of the few times I wholeheartedly agree with them. “Future global market demand for hybrid and battery electric vehicles may be over-hyped” is the conclusion of a new J.D.Power study, titled “Drive Green 2020: More Hope than Reality.”

For 2010, J.D.Power sees worldwide sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to total 954,500 vehicles, or 2.2 percent of the 44.7 million vehicles projected to be sold through the end of 2010. That picture should surely change 10 years later, no?

No. By 2020, J.D.Power sees combined global sales of HEVs and BEVs at 5.2 million units, or just 7.3 percent of the 70.9 million passenger vehicles forecasted to be sold worldwide by that year. And what’s keeping them? It’s not range anxiety. It’s plain old money.

“While many consumers around the world say they are interested in HEVs and BEVs for the expected fuel savings and positive environmental impact they provide, their interest declines significantly when they learn of the price premium that comes with purchasing these vehicles.”

“Many consumers say they are concerned about the environment, but when they find out how much a green vehicle is going to cost, their altruistic inclination declines considerably,” said Humphrey. “For example, among consumers in the U.S. who initially say they are interested in buying a hybrid vehicle, the number declines by some 50 percent when they learn of the extra $5,000, on average, it would cost to acquire the vehicle.”

If hybrids and plugins are supposed to be a huge success, one, or preferably more of the following needs to happen.

  • A significant increase in the global price of petroleum-based fuels by 2020
  • A substantial breakthrough in green technologies that would reduce costs and improve consumer confidence
  • A coordinated government policy to encourage consumers to purchase these vehicles.

But, says the report, “based on currently available information, none of these scenarios are believed to be likely during the next 10 years.”

“While considerable interest exists among governments, media and environmentalists in promoting HEVs and BEVs, consumers will ultimately decide whether these vehicles are commercially successful or not,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. “Based on our research of consumer attitudes toward these technologies—and barring significant changes to public policy, including tax incentives and higher fuel economy standards—we don’t anticipate a mass migration to green vehicles in the coming decade.”

If that’s what their research says, then the truth will be much bleaker. Consumers are known to lie through their teeth when it comes to green issues.

In developing countries, and that’s where the growth is and will be, money plays an even bigger role. Ironically,  if they buy cars with as much abandon as expected, maybe the “significant increase in the global price of petroleum-based fuels” part will happen earlier.

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J.D. Power: October Best Month Of The Year, But Nothing To Write Home About Fri, 22 Oct 2010 16:28:11 +0000

As Japan stares in the abyss, things are looking up for the U.S. auto market. Traffic at dealers is up, people are buying, cautiously. Based on transaction data from more than 8,900  dealers in the U.S., J.D.Power projects that this October will be the year’s strongest month –but not by a whole lot.

Based on the numbers they have so far, J.D.P. sees total light-vehicle sales in October at 922,700 units, 14 percent higher than October 2009. Fleet sales in October are expected to be up 3 percent from one year ago, representing an 18 percent share of total sales.  Power thinks total SAAR will be 11.9m units, up slightly from 11.7m units in December, and up 1.5m units from the dark days of October 2009.

Jeff Schuster of J.D.P. detects signs of strengthening consumer sentiment, despite all odds: “Despite the drag from high unemployment and lower incentive levels, improvement in the automotive market continues in October, suggesting that consumers are discounting the negative sentiment.”

J.D. Power and Associates U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons

October 2010 September 2010 October 2009
New-vehicle retail sales 756,300 units
(17% higher than October 2009)
758,425 units 667,877 units
Total vehicle sales 922,700 units
(14% higher than October 2009)
956,639 units 836,115 units
Retail SAAR 10.2 million units 9.5 million units 9.0 million units
Total SAAR 11.9 million units 11.7 million units 10.4 million units

What is interesting is the resurgence or retail sales. October is typically a month with a lower level of fleet sales, but this October fleet volume looks like the lowest of the year.

For the year, J.D.P. sees only tepid growth. They revised their total sales outlook  for 2010 down to 11.5m units, a bit less than previously thought 11.6m.

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Here Comes The Power! Thu, 17 Jun 2010 19:46:10 +0000

J.D. Power has released the results of its 2010 Initial Quality Survey (IQS). As in previous years, the release stresses that Detroit has improved, but now to the point that the average for GM, Ford, and Chrysler is for the first time higher than that for the imports. J.D. Power’s sound bite: “This year may mark a key turning point for U.S. brands as they continue to fight the battle against lingering negative perceptions of their quality.”

Interesting choice of words. The battle to change perceptions is often fought with ads. What information might ads include to assist in this fight?

Anyway, we all know better than to base our perceptions on headlines and self-serving sound bites, right? As tends to be the case, a deeper dig muddies the waters. To begin with, J.D. Power continues to assert that a low number of problems during the first 90 days of ownership should allay any concerns a car buyer might have about a car’s quality. But of course car buyers are most concerned about how a car will hold up in the long run.

Initial quality sometimes correlates with long-term durability, but there’s only a partial connection between the two. Initial quality can result from solid engineering, which will also benefit long-term durability. But strong initial quality can also follow from thorough inspections at the plant or dealer. Such inspections can catch and fix problems that happen to occur before delivery, but aren’t likely to reduce problems down the road.

J.D. Power’s scores also continue to combine design quality—how easy a car is to operate—and manufacturing quality—repairable defects. These are two very different things, but no subscores are provided in this year’s release. The inclusion of design quality might explain why BMW remains below the industry average—it tends to take a big hit for iDrive. A few years ago, Mercedes reacted by providing car buyers with more thorough instruction in how to operate its cars. Which might largely explain the brand’s #3 rank. Then again, both the current C-Class and the new E-Class have also scored well in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, which strictly measures repairs and doesn’t seek to combine every sort of product-related complaint into a single score.

Ideally, we’d look at the IQS scores for individual models, since people buy a model and not an entire brand. But, aside from a selection of top-scoring models, J.D. Power continues to only publicly release scores for brands.

Even a glance at the IQS brand scores suggests the pointlessness of thinking in terms of “domestic” and “imported.” On the domestic side, only Ford seems to be doing consistently well, and has improved to the highest rank for a non-luxury brand. GM’s score actually declined a little this year, and its quality continues to vary quite a bit from model to model, with some good ones and other not-so-good ones. Chrysler continues to be consistently worse than average, though the new Ram is touted as a bright spot.

The “imports” range from Porsche in the top spot all the way down to perennial basement-dweller Land Rover. What does labeling them all as “imports” accomplish other than enabling intellectual laziness?

The big story on the import side is that Toyota’s score declined by 16 points, landing it below average. J.D. Power notes, “Recent consumer concerns regarding Toyota’s quality are reflected in the nameplate’s performance.” Additional details would be helpful, but are not provided. Could a concern about unintended acceleration count as a problem? Recalls are not supposed to count, but could some mat and pedal replacements have been included anyway? Responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey have not indicated an increase in repairs for Toyotas, but we are much stricter than J.D. Power with regard to what counts as a problem.

In contrast to its parent, Lexus continues to score among the best.

As usual, all of this talk about where brands rank obscures how large the differences actually are (or are not). As in the past, the differences tend to be small. The average this year, 109 problems per 100 cars, is a single problem per 100 cars worse than last year. Not much of a change. Nevertheless, Automotive News headlines this decline, and credits Toyota for it. The number of brands within 20 percent of this average? Twenty-six out of 33.  Fifteen—nearly half—are within 10 percent of the average. And all of them except for Land Rover round to a single problem per car.

The differences are no doubt larger between models. And, for most people, it’s probably good enough to avoid the few outliers near the botton. But, as already noted, J.D. Power publicly releases the scores for very few car models, and even these exceptions are for top-scorers. If you want to know which specific models score well below the average, you’ll need to find another source. J.D. Power isn’t going to tell you.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, a provider of automotive quality and reliability data.

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Heavens! Car Quality Slips, Survey Says Thu, 17 Jun 2010 18:42:02 +0000

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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J.D. Power Raises 2010 Sales Projections A Tiny Notch, May Likely Ho-Hum Sat, 22 May 2010 07:01:42 +0000

After exhaustive study of the U.S. economy and buying patters, J.D. Power raised their U.S. sales outlook. From previously forecasted 11.7m units to 11.8m units.  Rental car lots are seen to absorb a good chunk of the total. True retail sales are projected to be 9.7m units when the year is over. “Much of this is due to the increased fleet mix,” says Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates. In May, J.D. Power is “looking for fleet sales to account for 24 percent of total sales.”

Power expects May new-vehicle retail sales to come in at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 9.2m units, down from April’s SAAR of 9.6m units. Fleet sales to the rescue: They are expected to push the total SAAR to 11.3m units, a tick above April’s selling rate of 11.2m units. Total light-vehicle sales for May are projected to rise 17 percent, compared to the dismal May a year ago. Fleet volume is forecasted to be up a whopping 52 percent from May 2009. All eyes on Memorial Day to make May sales more memoriable.

North American production for 2010 is forecasted to be at 11.2m units for the year, up 32 percent from 2009. NA capacity utilization is seen at 64 percent in 2010, up from 47 percent in 2009. In the industry, any capacity utilization below 80 percent is seen as a sign of losing money.

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Europe’s Future According To J.D. Power Wed, 05 May 2010 14:18:35 +0000

One by one, European countries will scrap their scrappage incentives this year (if they haven’t already.) With predictable results: Without the governmental amphetamine, the market will be down.  How much?

All in all, Europeans will buy around 10 percent fewer cars in 2010 than in 2009, predicted J.D. Power at their spring conference in Cologne. Automobilwoche [sub] was there and took notes.

In the pictures-speak-louder-than words dept., J.D. Power’s prediction for 2010 can be seen above. That’s a fairly easy call.

Now on to the trickier prognosis: How will 2011 fare in comparison with 2010? We don’t know what brand of tea-leaves J.D. Power is using, but here is what they think will happen next year:

The European market won’t be back to its former 2008 glory before 2015, reckons J.D. Power.

In case you are curious: REN-NIS is not a new Chinese player, it stands for Renault and Nissan. Anyway: J.D. Power predicts a great future for their long-time clients Ford and Toyota.

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