Study shows gains in dependability for GM

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 12:00 am

General Motors Co.'s brands all scored average or better for the first time since J.D. Power and Associates started studying the dependability of three-year-old vehicles 25 years ago. Industrywide quality had its first drop since 1998.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s namesake line, Volkswagen AG's Porsche and Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln all scored worse, falling from the top five and contributing to a 6 percent increase in complaints, Westlake Village, Calif.-based J.D. Power said. Toyota's Lexus remained the top brand for a third straight year.

Improvements by GM's Cadillac and Buick in the 2011 model year vaulted those brands into the top five in J.D. Power and Associates' annual Vehicle Dependability Study released Wednesday. The largest U.S. automaker also won an industry-best eight categories for Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, who took over as product chief in February 2011.

GM has “put in a massive amount of hard work” into improving its quality as it fights to counter past problems, said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive research at J.D. Power. “A lot of people still feel that GM vehicles are not especially reliable; a lot of that is based on maybe what they owned 15 years ago,” he said. “It's the biggest issue that they face, this lagging perception.”

Dependability gains for GM follow the Detroit-based automaker leading another closely watched quality measure last year, J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study, for the first time in almost three decades. The rankings help make the case that the automaker is building some of its best vehicles in a generation.

Creating customer loyalty hinges on the reliability of their vehicles, J.D. Power said. Fifty-six percent of owners who experience no problems with their vehicle stick with the same brand on their next purchase, the researcher said. Forty-two percent remain loyal if they report three or more problems.

The industry's increase in issues per 100 largely came from engine and transmission problems, J.D. Power said. Small gasoline and diesel engines were more problematic than five- and six-cylinder engines, the study said.

“A lot of the problems we see increasing are not necessarily true issues of dependability, i.e., vehicles going wrong over their life, but they're things which have been designed in a way that the customer didn't like on Day 1 and three years later they still don't like,” Sargent said.

Those issues include engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts, a lack of power in vehicles and hands-free communication not working correctly, he said.

“When we look at what we would consider pure dependability issues, those are tending to improve,” he said. “Things like brakes.”

Toyota's Lexus led the industry for the third straight year with 68 problems per 100 vehicles while Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz brand rose to No. 2 from No. 5 last year with 104. Cadillac's 107 points elevated it to No. 3 from below average last year.

This is the first time in the study's 25-year history that all of GM's brands ranked at or above the industry average, Sargent said.

The J.D. Power and Associates survey measures problems per vehicle in the last 12 months, as reported by the original owners of 2011 model year vehicle

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Brand Problems per 100 vehicles Places up/down from 2013
Lexus 68 0
Merc.-Benz 104 3
Cadillac 107 11
Acura 109 4
Buick 112 1
Honda 114 1
Lincoln 114 -4
Toyota 114 -4
Porsche 125 -7
Infiniti 128 10
BMW 130 5
Subaru 131 3
Chevrolet 132 -1
Jaguar 132 13
Mazda 132 -4
GMC 133 1
Industry avg. 133 (126 in '13)
Ford 140 -4
Nissan 142 1
Audi 151 4
Kia 151 1
Volvo 152 3
Scion 153 -4
Chrysler 155 3
Volkswagen 158 4
Ram 165 -14
Mitsubishi 166 4
Hyundai 169 -5
Jeep 178 1
Land Rover 179 3
Dodge 181 1
Mini 185 -6

Source: J.D. Power and Associates

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