Detroit Narrows Quality Gap

Amid growing uncertainty over the future of the American auto industry, J.D. Power and Associates released its 2009 Initial Quality Study which serves as the auto industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership.

The study was good news for Detroit, showing a 10% overall improvement in quality of domestic cars and trucks over the previous year which surpassed the overall industry increase of 8%.

Among American automakers, Ford was the big winner.

The Ford Mustang won top honors in the Mid-Sized Sporty Car segment and the Mercury Sable took top honors in the Large Car category. The Ford Edge, in a three-way tie with Chevrolet’s Trailblazer and Toyota’s 4Runner took top honors for Highest Ranked Midsize Multi Activity Vehicle (MAV). The Ford F-150 tied with the Toyota Tundra for Highest Ranked Large Pickup with the Chevrolet Avalanche taking second place.

Chrysler’s PT Cruiser Mini MPV tied with the Honda CR-V as the Highest Ranked Compact Multi Activity Vehicle followed by the Mitsubishi Outlander.

According to David Sargent, VP of Automotive Research at J.D. Powers and Associates, ‘Detroit automakers are keeping their focus on designing and building high-quality vehicles,’ which he cited as ‘a pre-condition for long-term success.’

The annual Initial Quality Study includes information gleaned from surveys of over 80,000 buyers and lessees of 2009 model-year cars and trucks.

Results are based on a ‘problems per 100 (PP100)’ metric which included 228 potential problems in eight categories including:

  • Audio/Entertainment/Navigation
  • Features/Controls/Displays
  • HVAC, or Climate Controls
  • Seats
  • Engine/Transmission
  • Interior
  • Driving Experience
  • Exterior

The study showed an overall industry PP100 average for initial quality of 108 problems per 100 which was down from 118 PP100 cited in the 2008 study. The study also found that initial quality of all-new and redesigned vehicles, which has historically been lower than average, improved over 2008 results.

David Sargent noted that, ‘Achieving high levels of initial quality in all-new models is one of the greatest challenges for manufacturers. Now that more manufacturers are getting their launch quality right straight out of the gate, consumers can expect the quality of new vehicles to continue to rise.’

For Detroit the good news was tempered somewhat by the fact that foreign automakers continued to dominate, taking eight of ten car segment first-place awards. 

For the 12th time since being included in the Initial Quality Study in 1989, Lexus claimed the title of overall highest-ranked brand.

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