The highest initial quality ratings of 2009 model year vehicles has now resulted in historically high levels of vehicle dependability in 2012. Overall vehicle dependability in 2012 averages 132 problems per 100 vehicles, an improvement of 13% from the 2011 average of 151. This is the lowest problem rate since the inception of the study in 1990. The 2012 study measures problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old o 2009 model-year vehicles. The study was based on a poll of more than 31,000 U.S. car owners.
Twenty five of 32 brands have improved in dependability from 2011, while six have declined and one has remained stable, according to Power. Domestic nameplates have improved in 2012 at a slightly faster rate than imports by narrowing – but not closing – the dependability gap to 13/100 from 18 /100 in 2011.
That doesn’t immediately improve a company’s reputation, though. There are several brands that have performed very well in dependability during the past several years, but still face challenges with customer perceptions of their reliability. Consider, during the past four years, models from Buick, Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai and Lincoln have achieved consistently strong levels of dependability, but still have relatively high proportions of new-vehicle buyers expressing reliability concerns in other Power studies on why people avoid brands.
“Building vehicles with high levels of dependability is obviously a necessary element in reshaping consumer perceptions,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power.
Not surprisingly to industry observers, Lexus ranks highest in vehicle dependability among all nameplates in 2012. In addition, the Lexus LS has the fewest problems in the industry at 72/100. Rounding out the five highest-ranking nameplates are Porsche, Cadillac, Toyota and Scion, respectively. Mini and Scion post the greatest year-over-year improvements from 2011, by 60/100 and 55/100, respectively.
Toyota Motor Corporation continues to perform well in long-term dependability with eight segment awards, more than any other automaker in 2012. Taking top spots were the Lexus ES 350 (in a tie with the Lincoln MKPP); Lexus RX 350; Scion tC; Scion xB; Toyota Prius; Toyota Sienna; Toyota Tundra; and Toyota Yaris. (Note the inexpensive models on the list, none of the following makers can make the same claim.) Lexus is the number one nameplate improving by 23 fewer problems/100; Toyota is the highest ranked non-premium nameplate and tied for third place overall, improving by 18 fewer problems/100; and Scion achieves its highest ever position at fifth place, jumping up 17 positions and improving by 55 fewer problems/100.
Ford Motor Company receives three model awards for the Ford Explorer (in a tie with the Nissan Murano); Ford Fusion; and Lincoln MKPP (in a tie). General Motors (Buick Lucerne and Chevrolet Equinox) and Nissan Motor (Nissan Frontier and Nissan Murano, in a tie with the Ford Explorer) each receive two awards. In addition, the Hyundai Genesis also receives an award.