By on February 22, 2017

2016 Ford Mustang GT

Perhaps we’ve finally hit a point where the old ways actually are the best. Gizmo-centric problems seem more important than ever to J.D. Power and Associates in this year’s dependability ranking, which examined problems experienced over the last 12 months on three-year-old vehicles and highlighted electronic accessories as a major issue.

So, a car that has a rock-solid drivetrain still might not make the grade due to a wonky multimedia system. A good example of this was J.D. Power’s chosen pickup, the Ford F-150. While the Ford achieved top marks for the quality of its interior, exterior, and electrics, the Toyota Tundra possessed vastly superior powertrain reliability.

It’s a similar story with the minivan segment. While the Toyota Sienna was given the crown, the Chrysler Town & Country actually had fewer reported problems in every area except the powertrain — and even that was still rated above average. It makes you wonder how much of the long-term quality being tested here is influenced by J.D. Power’s initial quality categories, which it splits into separate mechanical and “design” groups.

Meanwhile, Honda’s Ridgeline achieved an undisputed perfect dependability score in the midsize pickup segment and the Chevrolet Camaro walked away with an easy victory against the other American sport coupes.

Chevrolet’s Tahoe was rated best in reliability among larger SUVs and the Silverado HD won out in heavy-duty pickups. General Motors also faired well on the other end of the spectrum, with the Chevrolet Sonic emerging as the top-ranked small car.

GM should be generally pleased as its brands hovered around the upper-middle zone of reliability, with Buick in the top spot (or fourth place overall). It was beaten by Toyota, Porsche, and Lexus. In fact, Toyota and Lexus managed to place first in 10 of the 18 individual car segment categories. The Camry, Avalon, FJ Cruiser, Venza, Prius, and Prius V all scored big for Toyota while Lexus cleaned up the majority of the premium brackets.

J.D. Power populated the bottom of the pack with Infiniti, Ford, Mitsubishi, and all of the familiar FCA brands.

On average, owners of these 2014 models reported 156 issues per 100 cars in the past year. It’s an increase from last year’s survey and stems heavily from complicated multimedia control systems, says J.D. Power. Last year, 20 percent of the arising issues were attributed to electronic gremlins. This year it was two percent higher.

This 2017 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study was based on responses given to J.D. Power & Associates from 35,186 original owners of vehicles from the 2014 model year after 3 years of ownership. The study was conducted from October through December of 2016. According to the surveyor, issues were categorized into the following areas: exterior, interior, the driving experience, seats, HVAC systems, controls/displays, engine/transmission, and audio/communications/entertainment/navigation equipment.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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42 Comments on “Overall Vehicle Dependability Down Thanks to Newfangled Gizmos, Apparently...”

  • avatar

    This is much better than the misused initial reliability data.

  • avatar

    As autonomous features become more pervasive, expect things to get even worse.

    When the lane departure warning stops working on your 10 year old Benz, you can’t simply say I won’t fix it since I don’t really need it. The problem is when one subsystem goes down, it takes down the other 4-5 subsystems on that bus. Which means you have probably lost something vital. Now you’re screwed.

    We will soon see the day when pristine-looking cars with sound drivetrains get towed to the scrapyard, their failed electronics rendering them too expensive to repair.

    • 0 avatar

      What makes you think the repairs will be more expensive than the alternative? As an example, when Tesla enabled new driver aids crashes dropped 30%. You have to weight the cars that get totaled due to accident damage against the cost of future repairs.

      Also, one of the reasons all this technology is now standard on a Corolla is because it’s so cheap and will only get cheaper. So your theory that repairs will be ruinously expense may or may not end up to be correct.

      • 0 avatar

        “What makes you think the repairs will be more expensive than the alternative?”

        It won’t be the repairs, it’ll be the parts.

        Step 1: plug in diagnostic computer
        Step 2: remove box that computer says is bad
        Step 3: replace bad box with new box

        Of course, if the high tech parts are mass produced like consumable consumer electronics (smartphones), then they probably won’t be all that expensive… so maybe this isn’t all bad.

        • 0 avatar

          JimC2, this, exactly. Diagnosis will consist of finding the bad module. Buy a new module for a few hundred bucks, plug it in, be back in business.

          • 0 avatar

            Buy a new module for a few hundred bucks, TEAR APART ENTIRE CAR to reach module location, plug it in, REASSEMBLE VEHICLE, be back in business.

          • 0 avatar

            “Diagnosis will consist of finding the bad module.”


            I had a conversation about emission systems on heavy transport trucks with a senior mechanic at one of the local shops. He cited an example of a new Volvo tractor running rough. It was put on the “computer” and showed that it needed the replacement of several major emissions components. It was a huge bill pushing 10k (on warranty). The junior tech on the repair sent the information to their engineering HQ who confirmed the need to replace the system. A few senior techs suggesting waiting until they checked over some items. The “big wigs” shot the idea down and the junior tech did the repairs.

            The truck came back still running rough. He took over the job and found that a sensor had malfunctioned. Add insult to injury, Volvo billed the guy for the sensor since the omnipotent diagnostics computer failed to detect the sensor problem even though a bench test did find it.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          JimC2, if you dig into the details of what fails in electronics, it’s usually a bad connection, not a bad electronic component. I’ve repaired modules simply by re-soldering a connector to the PCB.

          • 0 avatar

            George, you are absolutely right. Most of the time it’s often something like a cold solder, a bent pin on a connector, a broken wire close to a connector, rather than microcomponents spontaneously going bad. That or infant mortality (if a chip survives the burn-in then it will probably last indefinitely).

            But dealer maintenance and other similar business models don’t really work that way anymore, as you and I both know.

      • 0 avatar

        Possibly true but a very limited data sample.

        And today I heard on the tv news that insurance rates going up nearly 20% due to smartphone connected crashes.

      • 0 avatar

        Sometimes you probably won’t be able to find the necessary parts. Ford seems to be especially bad at failing to keep making the parts necessary for keeping older models on the road.

    • 0 avatar

      We already see this with cars afflicted with labor intensive mechanical repairs.

      Besides the head gasket, a stock Northstar powered Caddillac/Olds/Pontiac is a relatively reliable luxury car. But when the head gasket goes the labor cost to repair “totals” the vehicle.

      Which is exactly what manufacturers want. Forcing people to buy or lease every three or four years due to high service costs ensures a consistent revenue stream.(See BMW,Range Rover etc)When keeping a car for a decade costs more then leasing a new one,guess what the public will do?

    • 0 avatar

      There are always entrepreneurs.

      I had the T-con board on a Sony big screen tv fail, no OEM parts available.
      Found a guy on eBay in Cincinnati who repairs them (R&R failed integrated circuit)fixed for 45 bucks.

      Shoutout to Marc’s Electronics Service! Google search if you need them.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep. I have a Samsung 61″ LED engine DLP, and there’s a guy who replaces all the capacitors on the sub-SMPS board with better-than-original parts, and he also carries all the other boards, most of which are discontinued.

  • avatar

    Of my last three cars (all bought new, the first in 1999), two of them had one or more power lock failures within the first five years of ownership. The locks still lock and unlock manually… from inside the car, oh, but there is no keylock on the passenger door anymore! And on one of these cars, the rear door locks were inexplicably unreachable from the front seat unless you climbed over the front seat. That is, you couldn’t just reach over your shoulder and unlock the left rear door; the little plastic thing you had to grab was way at the far end of the door.

    And that’s why I’ve avoided paying for built in DVD navigation or other techno-silliness anywhere I could.

    J.D. Power and corporate bean counters don’t own cars more than a few years old. SMH

  • avatar

    Makes sense that the “gizmos” would be the ultimate test of “reliability.” With mechanical reliability becoming almost a given, the “gizmos” are what drives interface with most often.

  • avatar

    How much of this is actually failure of the electronics and how much is failure of the user to operate them correctly?

    (Not that that lets the manufacturers off the hook. If people can’t figure out your user interface, it’s a bad interface.)

    • 0 avatar

      Very true. I went pair my wife phones with her new (well 2 year old used) Infiniti Q60 – but no dice. We tried the onboard voice recognition and asked to pair the phone – nope. I read the manual and that offered no help either. Was really ticked off, Bluetooth is a common feature and nonrmally works pretty well. Then I found a YouTube video that gave me the answer in the first two seconds: the car must be stationary for the phone pairing to work! Seems they didn’t want anyone using the setup feature while driving. It would have been very helpful if the UI would have kicked up an error message telling you the pairing feature wasn’t available unless your foot is on the brake.

  • avatar


    Of all the dodgy reports on reliability out there, money has a hard time buying shadier “long-term dependability” surveys than those shat out by the manufacturer ball-cradling JD SHIFTY POWERS one.

  • avatar

    My nominee for Most Egregious New Fangled Gizmo: TPMS (AKA, ARGH) Mine is always on the blink. Just need to drive the car to a different higher elevation or in a climate of noticeably higher or lower temperature and BINGO the light pops on.

    • 0 avatar

      One of the several component failures that happened in my 37,000 miles of G8 ownership was the TPMS controller. Dealer swapped it under warranty.

    • 0 avatar

      Amazingly, the TPMS on my 2007 Altima has not failed in 2.5 years of ownership. Those were NOTORIOUSLY bad. I did have one sensor cause a slow leak, but no electronic failures with it.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah Nissan has a notoriously bad TPMS system. If somebody came to me and said that they gave a bunch of chimps in a cage a computer and some TPMS components and let them figure it out I’d believe them.

        • 0 avatar

          This is an answer looking for a problem. At most I check my tyre pressures once a fortnight, once a month?

          If its low, top it up.

          I do agree that cars hit a nadir maybe 5 to 10yrs back… they are safe ‘enough’, they have enough driving aids but they dont have this huge proliferation of electronic arrays that new cars have.

  • avatar

    I think until someone has to live with an errant infotainment system one does not grasp the impact it can have on the ownership experience.

    My last experience in a 2016 Chevy Malibu (apparently a fleet spec for Alamo based on the previous generation 2016) with MyLink would have me not touch a GM vehicle with the system.

    Hard reset required in the parking garage – following a Reddit procedure found on the internet (it was the ‘bu or a Jeep Compass, a gun to shoot myself was not given as an option).

    Then a complete hard lock within 30 minutes of driving. Can’t turn off, can’t change the volume, can’t change the station. Just locked. Shutting down vehicle, removing key, opening door, restarting, still locked.

    Redid reset procedure again.

    Endless crashes of my iPhone when connected via Bluetooth that had me blaming Apple. Ahhh, but when the Malibu developed a list of other problems, finally reaching a, not the fault of the Malibu but thank God as I can get rid of this $hit box flat tire, I was given a 2017 Nissan Maxima for my troubles. The iPhone amazingly never crashed once connected via Bluetooth to the Maxima.

    I had a Ford Edge back when my FordTouch had just emerged that was also a complete trainwreck. Screen would go black and reset for 3 to 5 minutes, leaving me no way to adjust important things like…climate control.

    If the Malibu had been my daily drive, I would have wanted to push it off a cliff, and you better believe had a J D Powers survey showed up I would have said infotainment was a huge problem.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. And problems like that are even more frustrating when it’s something that’s *supposed* to be simple (viewing your navigation, adjusting your temperature) and it becomes impossible. Yeah, any time people mention infotainment problems here as not truly being “serious”, that just proves they’ve never had these types of problems happen to them.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course, some of us on here don’t drive a new enough vehicle to have an “infotainment system.” Just sayin’.

      • 0 avatar

        My worry with these infotainment units is the touch screens. When those fail how do you activate the climate control? So the car is too hot / cold no big deal right? Well lack of defrosters means NO visibility. If I can’t see out of the car that is a major problem!

  • avatar

    A not so uncommon guide to starting a GMC:

    *Service stabilitrak
    *Service 4wd
    *Service lane departure system
    *Turns off lane departure
    *Shift to reverse
    *turns off parking sensors
    *reverse camera covered in snow
    *mirror iced over and cant automatically point down when in reverse
    *good old fashioned shoulder check to reverse out the lane

    Way too much focus on tech in new cars when in the real world it’s useless

  • avatar

    J.D. Power is overrated. Use Consumer Reports instead.

  • avatar

    ” Perhaps we’ve finally hit a point where the old ways actually are the best “. Predictable but I and others of my kind were never invited to focus groups. Didn’t meet the “change for the sake of change” criteria I guess.

    Dumb manufacturers, my cash recently went to a car that actually had normal tires instead of sidewall collapsing and rough riding run flats, together with an actual spare tire and jack. Also actual one step and you are done dials and buttons when adjusting things inside the car. Oh and actual real-with-my-own-eyes visibility all around the car, most of it anyway, not relying only on a camera and good luck. Who knew anyone would value these things? :(

  • avatar

    What’s the chances of the various electronic modules being available in 8 or 10 years? What incentive does a manufacturer have to produce them, long term, if they decide that not supporting them could lead to the sale of a new vehicle?

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