News Column

Detroit 3 Narrow Gap on Quality: JD Power

Feb. 13, 2013

Brent Snavely

Toyota and its luxury Lexus brand topped the charts again in J.D. Power's vehicle dependability study while Ram climbed into the top 10.

The Asian automaker's Lexus brand ranked first and Toyota was tied with Lincoln for third in the study which measures problems owners report in their 2010 model-year cars after three years of ownership.

Porsche was ranked third and Mercedes-Benz was fifth.

While the Detroit Three continued to narrow the gap on quality scores in the study, seven Toyota and Lexus models had the best scores in their segment awards -- more than any other manufacturer in 2013.

"More so than other automaker, when they have choices to make, they almost always make the choice to maximize the dependability of their vehicle," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. "It's something they have been doing for 30 years."

J.D. Power's study measures the number of problems per 100 for cars and trucks purchased in 2010. A problem is anything the owner notices in the past 12 months of driving 3-year-old vehicles.

Chrysler's Ram brand soared from near the bottom in 2011 to ninth place overall and Chevrolet improved to above average.

"They have come a long way in a relatively short space of time," Sargent said of Chevrolet.

General Motors received four segment awards for the Buick Lucerne; Chevrolet Camaro; Chevrolet Tahoe; and GMC Sierra HD.

In total, the combined average score of all domestic brands was 133 compared with 123 for Asian and German automakers.

Sargent said he expects that margin will continue to narrow because domestic automakers are improving their quality faster than Asian and German brands.

"However, when we ask consumers who they believe has the best reliability...there is still a fairly strong perception that the quality is well below the imports," Sargent said. "It takes a long time for perception to catch up with reality."

Another reason that the perception might lag is that domestic automakers still have some troubles to overcome.

For example, even as Ram improved, Dodge was ranked second to last among the 31 brands while Chrysler and Jeep also were near the bottom.

"We actually saw quite a bit of improvement from Chrysler this year," Sargent said. "Where they have trouble is in their legacy models -- cars and trucks they no longer build."

Source: (c)2013 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services

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