By on June 4, 2008

000_08jdpoweriqs_opt.jpgJ.D. Power has released its Initial Quality Study (IQS) results. Once again, the scores combine design quality (stuff that can’t be fixed, like BMW's iDrive) and manufacturing quality (stuff that can and should be fixed). Once again, these results convey little useful information. For one thing, J.D. only releases the scores for makes, not for individual models. For another, the make scores are so close together that the rankings aren't particularly revealing. Only a single make beats the average (1.18 problems) by more than 20 percent: Porsche. The list of who’s doing 20 percent worse than average is longer: Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Saab, Suzuki, Saturn, Land Rover, MINI and Jeep. So these are the makes to avoid, right? It depends on how wound-up you get about a single additional initial problem for every three cars (you’re buying at least three, right?) in the first 90 days. And remember: J.D. doesn’t release individual model scores. At some point, J.D’ll give us “circle dots,” but these won’t divulge which models score poorly enough to earn only a single dot— the lowest score is two dots.  

[Fair disclosure: Michael Karesh runs TrueDelta, which also measures vehicle quality.]

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24 Comments on “J.D. Power Release IQS. And?...”


  • avatar
    Trevor

    connect the dots, la la la la, connect the dots, la la la la

  • avatar

    I’ve had a little more time to look over the results. A few interesting details, for the good news column:

    1. The German plant that makes Mercedes’ CL-, CLS-, E- and S-Classes had the lowest problem rate of any in the world. Mercedes appears to have really stepped up its game, at least with regard to initial quality.

    2. The Chevrolet Malibu did very well, as my initial data at TrueDelta has been suggesting it might. GM hasn’t been producing enough to fully meet demand. I suspect more attention than usual to quality control.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    They do rank the top vehicles in each segment, which to me is very informative.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    On the JD Power website you can find quality ratings for individual models.

    I noticed: Chevrolet Malibu gets 5 stars. That’s great news for Chevy.

    BUT: Saturn Aura and Pontiac G6 get only 3 stars.
    How is that possible? These vehicles share the same platform, are made with the same components and in the same factory!

    Maybe Chevy customers are easy to please?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    JD Power reports the model results separately on this page: http://www.jdpower.com/autos/ratings/quality-ratings-by-category

    The five star winners are: Civic, Elantra, Corolla, Prius, CR-V, Escape, PT Cruiser, RAV4, Mercedes CLK, Miata, Infiniti EX, Infiniti G-series, Grand Prix, Sequoia, Silverado, Avalanche, Tundra, Lexus LS, Navigator, Infiniti QX56, Malibu, Fusion, Galant, Durango, Trailblazer, Santa Fe, 4Runner, Highlander, Dakota, Ranger, Infiniti M-class, Mercedes E-class, Lexus RX, Lexus GX470, Cayenne, Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Nissan Quest, Chevy Express van, Ford E-Series van.

    If you take this at face value, the results:

    -When it comes to cars, Infiniti is the new Lexus

    -Ford is really improving. Really.

    -There may be something to the Malibu, after all; it actually beat the Accord and the Camry

    -There may be hope for Dodge in its truck line, assuming anybody still wants a truck

    -The best Porsche is (gasp!) an SUV

    -Americans still know how to build a truck and a van.

    Not that I take everything at face value, but it is what it is.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    For what it’s worth: the highest scoring volume brand is Toyota. Still.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    Go Mercury Grand Marquis!!!!

    And Ford Ranger!!!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Go Mercury Grand Marquis!!!!

    The five stars went to the Pontiac Grand Prix. The Mercury Grand Marquis got four.

    Nobody gets one star, by the way, it’s not on the scale. Every kid gets at least a “D” (two stars). Nobody flunks out of JD Power.

  • avatar

    A dot is not a score.

    As far as I know, they’ve never even made it clear what each dot represents in terms of an actual score.

    How far above and below the average does a three dot extend? How much better than average does a car need to earn a five?

    It’s not really relevant which models are the winners unless you think of this as a game. If you just want to know which cars aren’t going to be troublesome, a number of alternatives will be close enough to each winner that they’re essentially equivalent for anyone buying just one car.

    The most useful information: which cars are the most troublesome. And that’s exactly what they won’t tell us.

  • avatar

    On Chevy vs. Saturn and Pontiac: as stated in an earlier comment, I think they’re putting the Malibu through more thorough inspections at the plant. They might have also paid more attention to potential problems when engineering the car. It doesn’t hurt that it was third out of the chute rather than first.

  • avatar
    Quay

    J.D. Power sells the specific model ratings and much more IQS data to the auto manufacturers, that’s why you won’t see them posting any more specific detail beyond the dots. It’s a business model, not a public service.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    Michael, while I agree that anything from JD Power must be taken with an ocean of salt, a single click reveals the following:

    5 dots:
    companies or models scoring in the top 10 percent of all companies in the segment can also receive five Power Circles
    4 dots:
    Companies or models scoring in the next 30 percent of all companies in the segment receive a rating of 4 Power Circles
    3 dots:
    Companies or models scoring in the next 30 percent of all companies in the segment receive a rating of 3 Power Circles […] with 10 percent of companies or models rating “about average” receiving a numerical score above the survey average and 20 percent of companies or models rating “about average” receiving a numerical score below the survey average

    It’s all right here:
    http://www.jdpower.com/ratings-guide

  • avatar

    Thanks, Seoultrain. It’s badly written, “models that score in the top x% of all companies,” but I think I get the ghist.

    5 = top 10%
    4 = 60 to 90
    3 = 30 to 60
    2 = below 30

    Essentially, it’s harder to get a 5 than I expected, but easier to get a 3 or 4. And the 2 is no wider a range than a 3 or 4, so they might as well have made this a four-dot scale and been done with it.

    The biggest problem, though, remains. These are percentile scores, so we haven’t a clue what absolute problem rates they represent. Given how makes bunch near the average, there could be very little difference between a 3 and a 4 on the “make” ratings.

    For models, who knows…

  • avatar
    KixStart

    From the JDS site:

    “Each year, tens of thousands of registered new-vehicle owners respond to J.D. Power and Associates surveys and report on the quality of their new vehicles during the initial 90 days of ownership.”

    Who buys Chevys? Overwhelmingly, people who owned Chevys. I want to see this survey only after it’s adjusted for expectations. What would a Toyota owner think about that Chevy?

    I used to own Volvos. I was supremely satisfied with them, I felt they were very reliable and of very high quality. However, after buying 4 Toyotas, I am not at all likely to purchase another Volvo. They’re not junk but I think I know how much better a car can be. Before the Volvos, I thought my Chevys were good cars.

    I’ve seen enough glowing customer writeups about Cheys which also listed problems that I would no longer tolerate, to understand that a subjective “satisfaction” survey isn’t likely to tell the whole story.

  • avatar

    As a car journalist, I’m constantly asking total strangers what they think about their car. No one has EVER said “This is such a piece of shit.” Why would they? It would make them appear stupid for buying it. This is especially true during the first 90 days of ownership. It’s only after a year or so, when the blush is off the rose, that he or she would be willing to admit that they made a mistake. And probably not even then. And certainly not to someone like J.D. Power, who’s recording their opinions for posterity. OK, profit. As MK has said before, there are LOTS of problems with customer surveys of this nature. Only a scientific measure of objective data like, say, warranty claims, can be viewed as reliable data. And not even then. TrueDelta is the only organization whose customer data is worthy of TTAC readers’ full consideration. We are working hard to restore our links to their site.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Pch101 wrote:
    The five stars went to the Pontiac Grand Prix. The Mercury Grand Marquis got four.

    That shocked me. I drive both fairly regularly (although try to select the Crown Vic / Grand Marquis whenever I can). I wouldn’t even compare the two. If you want your car to overheat and boil five times while crossing Death Valley, by all means, choose the Pontiac. I drove Crown Vic / Grand Marquis is so many different places, never a single issue. I have no idea what they judge in JD IQS, but clearly not the ability to get you from point A to point B.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Check out the “dependibility” ratings section, which is after the car is 3 years old.

    The Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are the highest of all large cars. They score better as they age, while the newer tin can designs suffer electrical glitches, expensive “strut” repairs, etc. Try pricing a four wheel strut replacement on an Avalon vs. buying four new shocks on a Panther.

    90 day ratings is just done for marketing purposes.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    The Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are the highest of all large cars.

    Which would be great…if anyone actually bought large cars anymore.

    They score better as they age, while the newer tin can designs suffer electrical glitches, expensive “strut” repairs, etc. Try pricing a four wheel strut replacement on an Avalon vs. buying four new shocks on a Panther.

    The money spent on replacing an Avalon’s parts are well-spent compared to any cash spent on that time warp on wheels. I’d rather EAT the money.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    If Ford put a more fuel-efficient power plant into a panther, I would buy it in an eye blink. Talk about a car that will outlast you. Too bad they stopped making a CV wagon long time ago.

    BTW, that “time warp on wheels” even with today’s power plant is still infinitely more efficient than most of the formerly-trendy SUV POSes on the road (and handles 100 times better).

  • avatar
    philbailey

    “TrueDelta is the only organization whose customer data is worthy of TTAC readers’ full consideration.”

    Not so, at all. Consumers Reports still plays a very important role in providing data on long term reliability. And unlike all other “quality measurers” they have no immediate requirement for earned income, in the form of fees.

    As I have oft repeated, CR’s “red dot/black dot” presentation very closely parallels our experiences on the shop floor. Don’t count CR out, you do so at your peril. Actually, I can see no real reason for re-inventing the wheel in the first place.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    New models often have more issues then the same vehicle on it’s third year of production. Jeep has had a number of new models, such as the new redesigned Wrangler JK that has been a big seller, so that should also be taken into consideration.

    I would like to see how vehicles have been after five years as that would tell me more about how well built the are.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    90 day ratings is just done for marketing purposes.

    No, it’s done because JD Power makes a lot of money selling its data to manufacturers, which then use the IQS to measure how their cars are managing fresh out of the factory.

    JD Power gives a fraction of its information to the public in order to stimulate enough public interest and credibility so that the manufacturers continue to subscribe to their services.

    I would like to see how vehicles have been after five years as that would tell me more about how well built the are.

    Consumer Reports and True Delta will tell you that.

    I’m guessing that JD Power offers 90-day and 3-year surveys because both of those fall within typical manufacturer warranty periods. The manufacturers aren’t necessarily going to pay for data for the fifth year, when they don’t provide any warranty coverage for that time period.

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    Useless information. Tell me 10 years out how the cars are doing and I’ll pick a brand that I want to own from that list.

    Nope, I don’t know how to measure that reliably either… Most of those vehicles are no longer dealer maintained. Guess we’d have to go around to the shops and talk to the mechanics.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Interestingly enough, IQS is a good measurement of a plant’s ability to assemble a product. In that sense, it’s reliable data.

    Even more interestingly, the top-rated pickup truck and large car are built at the very plant (Oshawa) that GM is going to close.

    That’s strategy!

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