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U.S. Automakers Improve in Initial Quality, Says J.D. Power and Associates

June 23, 2009

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — New vehicles sold by Chrysler, Ford and GM’s domestic brands have improved in year-over-year initial quality by an average of 10 percent, surpassing the 8 percent rate of improvement by the industry overall, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Initial Quality Study (IQS).

Overall, the industry average for initial quality is 108 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2009, down from 118 PP100 in 2008. Initial quality for domestic brands has improved to an average of 112 PP100 in 2009 from 124 PP100 in 2008. Lower PP100 scores indicate a lower rate of problem incidences and higher quality.

“Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, the Detroit automakers are keeping their focus on designing and building high-quality vehicles, which is a precondition for long-term success,” said David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. “High quality generally translates into reduced re-engineering costs and lower warranty expenses during a vehicle’s life cycle. High quality also enhances an automaker’s reputation for reliability, which is a critical purchase consideration for many consumers.”

In addition to the marked improvement by domestic automakers, many import brands continued to perform well in 2009. Lexus leads the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 84 PP100. Following in the rankings are Porsche, Cadillac (which moves from 10th rank position in 2008 to third in 2009), Hyundai (improves from 13th rank position in 2008 to fourth in 2009) and Honda, rounding out the top five. Suzuki posts the largest improvement in ranking, moving from 32nd place in 2008 to ninth in 2009.

The study finds that initial quality for newly launched and redesigned models in 2009 has improved compared with previous years. Historically, all-new models have typically launched with below-average levels of initial quality. However, several all-new models in 2009, including the Hyundai Genesis, Kia Borrego, Toyota Venza and Volkswagen CC, perform considerably better than their respective segment averages. Many redesigned models in 2009 also show notable improvement from the previous generation — particularly the Acura TL, Ford F-150, Honda Pilot and Nissan Z.

“Achieving high levels of initial quality in all-new models is one of the greatest challenges for manufacturers,” said Sargent. “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.”

2009 IQS Ranking Highlights

Toyota Motor Corporation captures 10 segment awards—more than any other corporation in the 2009 study—including five for Lexus, four for
Toyota and one for Scion. Lexus receives awards for the IS, GS, GX, LS and LX models. The Lexus LX has the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 52 PP100. Toyota models receiving awards in their respective segments are the 4Runner (in a tie); Sienna; Tundra (in a tie); and Yaris.

Ford receives three awards for the Edge (in a tie); F-150 (in a tie); and Mustang. Garnering two awards each are Nissan (Altima and Z); and Honda (CR-V, in a tie, and Ridgeline).

Also receiving segment awards are: Chevrolet Trailblazer (in a tie), Chrysler PT Cruiser Wagon (in a tie), GMC Yukon, Hyundai Elantra Sedan, Mercury Sable and Scion tC.

The IQS analyzes new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership, and captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories—design-related problems and defects and malfunctions.

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