Lexus leads way in J.D. Power's reliable vehicle survey

The new 2013 Lexus LS offers state-of-the art The new 2013 Lexus LS offers state-of-the art safety features, including an advanced pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, vehicles or other objects ahead. Photo Credit: Scripps Howard News Service/Lexus

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Toyota Motor Corp. led automakers with the fewest problems reported by U.S. owners of its three-year-old cars, while General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. also fielded models that topped their segments in long-term quality.

Toyotas Lexus luxury brand led the industry for the second straight year, its namesake line tied for third, and seven of its models topped their segments. Strides by Toyota, GM and Honda helped reduce the industry average for problems per 100vehicles to 126, the fewest in the 24-year history of J.D. Power & Associates Vehicle Dependability Study. J.D. Power released the latest edition of the study today.

Automakers ability to retain their customers hinges on the reliability of their vehicles, Westlake Village, California- based J.D. Power said in a statement. The researcher said 54 percent of owners who experience no problems with their vehiclestick with the same brand on their next purchase. Just 41 percent are loyal if they report three or more problems.

Its very clear that the more problems somebody has, the less likely they will be to buy the same brand of vehicle again, David Sargent, vice president of global automotive research at J.D. Power, said in a telephone interview. When manufacturersare fighting for every decimal point of market share, thats a pretty powerful message.

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Toyota Models

Toyotas RAV4 sport-utility vehicle and Sienna minivan were among the Toyota City, Japan-based automakers seven vehicles that topped their segments, J.D. Power said. The automaker led the industry even though several of its 2010 models were amongthe 10 million vehicles that were recalled to fix defects related to unintended acceleration and that performed poorly in the market researchers study of new-car quality.

There was a perception that there were these Toyotas falling apart all over the place, Sargent said. The reality was there were a relatively small number of well-publicized issues. A lot of Toyota owners were very concerned their vehicle mighthave problems, but most of them actually didnt.

GM followed Toyota with four models winning segment awards, and the Detroit-based automaker matched the industry average on an overall basis, Sargent said. This is the first year since 2005 that GM on a companywide basis didnt score below theindustry average, he said.

GMs Winners

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The GMC Sierra pickup, Chevrolet Camaro sporty midsize car, Chevy Tahoe SUV and Buick Lucerne large sedan all topped their respective categories. Cadillac was GMs only brand that didnt improve both in ranking and average number of problems.

As GMs quality has improved, investors have placed greater value on its stock relative to sales compared with the Standard & Poors 500 Index. Toyotas market value relative to sales is trading at the lowest discount to the S&P 500 in almost threeyears.

Hondas Crosstour midsize SUV and Acura RDX small luxury crossover led their respective segments, and both of the Tokyo- based automakers brands had better scores than a year earlier.

The industrys improving quality may help draw consumers back into showrooms after they delayed purchases during the recession, increasing the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads to almost 11 years, according to researchers R.L. Polk & Co. and Experian Automotive.

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It is virtually certain that new vehicles being sold today will be even more reliable in three years, J.D. Powers Sargent said in the statement.

Porsche Second

Volkswagen AGs Porsche owners reported 94 problems per 100 vehicles, second only to Lexuss 71. Toyotas namesake brand and Ford Motor Co.s Lincoln luxury line tied for third at 112. Dearborn, Michigan-based Fords namesake brand had an averagescore of 127, one point below the industry average and two points behind GMs Chevrolet.

Daimler AGs Mercedes-Benz jumped one spot to fifth place in the rankings, with 115 problems per 100 vehicles. Mercedes again topped rival Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, which ranked below the industry average for the fourth consecutive year with ascore of 133.

Chrysler Group LLCs Ram was the most improved brand from a year earlier, with the truck brands average problems experienced per 100 vehicles plunging by 52 points to 122. Ram also jumped 20 spots to place ninth among all nameplates.

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Three of Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chryslers other brands were among the studys seven worst-ranked names. Rams 2010 model year light-duty truck was the first product that the company targeted to improve quality after its 2009 bankruptcy andalliance with Fiat SpA, Sargent said.

Chrysler has now applied that approach to the other products, he said. We would hope to see the Chrysler Group products improve fairly rapidly over the next few years.

The industrys average of 126 problems per 100 vehicles from the 2010 model year compares with 132 in last years study and 151 the year before. U.S. automakers narrowed the gap of scores compared with import brands to 10 problems from 13 a yearearlier, according to J.D. Power.

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