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The studies

Studies and statistics: car quality surveys explained Add to ...

Consumer Reports (CR)

The annual auto issue of the magazine produces a scorecard that takes into account a variety of measured factors, including on-road performance, reliability and fuel-economy.

Honda had the top overall score of 74, and was followed by Subaru, Toyota and Volvo. Ford placed fifth with an overall score of 67. Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz rounded out the top 10.

Overall, Japanese cars are the most trouble-free, with Honda and Toyota far ahead compared with older vehicles made by other major manufacturers – especially 2006 (five-year-old) and earlier models.

“Knowing a brand’s reputation for reliability can aid the used-car shopper, but it’s not foolproof. You're buying just one model from that brand. So it’s important to check out the specific model’s reliability ratings and learn about other factors like performance and safety,” says David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.

APEAL study

In 1996, J.D. Power and Associates began surveying customers about how much they enjoyed their purchases. The 2011 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study is the latest product reflecting that research.

The APEAL study identifies what consumers like and dislike about their vehicles and how gratifying they are to own. The focus is on design, content, layout and performance. Porsche is the highest-ranking nameplate in the 2011 APEAL Study for a seventh consecutive year.

“There are two sides of the quality coin: things gone right and things gone wrong,” says David Sargent, vice-president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Both are of critical importance, and models that perform well on both measures generate higher levels of recommendation and, ultimately, higher loyalty to the brand. In general, customers are also willing to pay more for vehicles that combine high appeal with high initial quality.”

Initial Quality Study (IQS)

The J.D. Power and Associates IQS tracks problems reported during the first 90 days of ownership. Power said the 2011 results were heavily influenced by two increasingly important factors: complex infotainment features causing discomfort among new users; and fuel-saving powertrain refinements make automatic transmissions shift gears in unfamiliar ways.

Lexus topped all brands with only 73 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Honda, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda and Porsche, which placed first in 2010. The Lexus LS sedan had the fewest defects of any model, with 54 problems per 100 cars. Dodge finished last, with 137 problems per 100 vehicles. Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and Mini also placed at the bottom of the survey.

The industry average of 107 problems per 100 vehicles was down from 109 in 2010. But results for redesigned or freshened vehicles slipped 10 per cent, to 122 problems per 100, from 111, after launch quality had improved from 2007 to 2010.

“We're not seeing the average improve as much as we’d like,” David Sargent, vice-president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power, told The Detroit News.

Total Quality Index

Strategic Vision Inc. (SVI) produces its Total Quality Index (TQI) every year. It differs from others by looking at the consumer’s definition of “quality” as reflected in the total sum of the emotionally relevant experience for the new-car buyer.

Darrel Edwards, chairman and founder of Strategic Vision, says, “Decades ago, we decided to measure ‘quality' from the ‘total' perspective of the driver/owner, because this is how people actually judge ‘quality' in terms of the decision to purchase or not.”

Adds Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision. “We explicitly measure the emotional impact of each vehicle attribute and ask the customer what they love about their vehicle.”

Volkswagen of America was rated the best full-line corporation in the 2011 study. Ford had the second-best Total Quality score, but statistically ranks alongside American Honda and Nissan

Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS)

J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) measures problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old (2008 model year) vehicles. It looks at 202 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. Overall dependability is determined by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

In 2011, overall vehicle dependability averages 151 problems per 100 vehicles – the lowest problem rate since the inception of the study in 1990. The study found that owners were critical of problems with electronic features in vehicles, including audio, entertainment and navigation systems and new safety features, such as tire pressure monitoring systems.

Power's David Sargent says “as manufacturers add new features and technologies to satisfy customer demand and new legislation, they face the potential for introducing new problems.”

In the 2011 study, Lincoln was the top overall nameplate, followed by Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota. The Porsche 911 has the fewest problems in the industry, with just 68 problems per 100.

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