J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Survey: Stuff and Nonsense

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh

J.D. Power’s latest Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) covers the relevant vehicles' third year of operation. [OEMs didn't want to pay for the fifth year study; by then the design is either out of production or almost out of production, so there's nothing they can really do with the results. Also, by then the warranty has expired, so they're not paying the costs of those repairs.] Once again, much media attention is paid to which brands did better this year (Saab), and which did worse (Buick). Once again, the public gets misleading brand scores rather than model-level results. (Brand averages can be heavily influenced by a single bad design, the introduction of a new design, or the lack thereof.) And then there’s the little matter of what counts as a “problem” in J.D.'s book. Apparently, it’s anything the survey respondent reports as a problem, rather than a manufacturer-related shortcoming. The VDS’ five most commonly reported problems include brake noise (get them serviced), pulling to one side (get your car aligned), and excessive window fogging. Window fogging? Maybe by the time the third year rolls around it’s time for customers to grab the glass cleaner.

Michael Karesh
Michael Karesh

Michael Karesh lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with his wife and three children. In 2003 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago he worked at the National Opinion Research Center, a leader in the field of survey research. For his doctoral thesis, he spent a year-and-a-half inside an automaker studying how and how well it understood consumers when developing new products. While pursuing the degree he taught consumer behavior and product development at Oakland University. Since 1999, he has contributed auto reviews to Epinions, where he is currently one of two people in charge of the autos section. Since earning the degree he has continued to care for his children (school, gymnastics, tae-kwan-do...) and write reviews for Epinions and, more recently, The Truth About Cars while developing TrueDelta, a vehicle reliability and price comparison site.

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  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Aug 08, 2008

    "Great info Mr. Lang. I’m curious but you didn’t mention Subaru’s, how did they fair according to your study, and if you have model specifics that would be even more awesome." Subarus incurred more miles per year than any other brand. I was a bit surprised given that 90+% of them were all-wheel-drive. But Subaru also has an outdoors oriented lifestyle which coincidentally, leads to them also being the most likely to have bike or ski racks on their tops. Foresters and Legacys were dominant, with the Forester outpacing the Legacy for the newer model years. The few low mileage trade-in's were older Legacy models (10+ years) which apparently are used by the grey hair set in Florida. Subaru had fewer vehicles, percentage wise, that were traded in with less than 100k on them than any other brand. Period. Often times the over 150k's outpaced the under 100k's by a 2 to 1 margin. Only Lexus and Acura approached that level of owner satisfaction. I still think we should publish this and revise on a weekly basis. In my estimation, it's the best way to determine which brands are truly doing well over the long term and which ones are not.

  • Sashazur Sashazur on Aug 08, 2008

    Actually window fogging was a big pain in the a** on my 2001 Passat. It happened much more frequently with that car than the Accord I had before, or the Scion tC I now have - and the whole time I was living in the same place with the same climate.

  • 07Frontier 07Frontier on Aug 12, 2008

    I, too, dislike JDPower's method of rating only the brands and not the models. I agree about the fogging issue. Fresh air defogs/defrosts the windows. Recirculated air simply recirculates humid, moisture-laden air we exhale. In the summer it's not a problem here in the south since it's so hot. But cool, damp days exacerbate the problem. You want recirc off, so that fresh air can come in and clear the windows. As someone mentioned earlier, newer model vehicles will turn recirc off when the defroster is selected for this reason. I've driven foreign and domestic, and I've never had a problem with window fogging.

  • Ohiodale Ohiodale on Feb 15, 2013

    Why should all issues be weighted equally. I do not think user's lack of understanding of high tech devices should count as a reported issue. I do not think fogging windows should count either. Who cares if the windows fog as long as the defroster is working. I would bet you eliminate all senseless complaints that most cars would be about equal. I have owned many cars and have never had issues with any car less than 3 years old. This includes back 20 years ago.