Deterioration in vehicle quality during the first three years of ownership-determined by comparing long-term dependability rates to initial quality problem rates-strongly affects overall customer satisfaction as well as customer willingness to recommend their vehicle model, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS).
The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of 3-year-old (2005 model year) vehicles, finds that, on average, customers report experiencing 75 percent more problems in the third year of ownership than during the first 90 days. Those models with the largest increase in problem levels show the most pronounced declines in satisfaction and the likelihood of owners to recommend their vehicle model. In addition, while no model has fewer reported problems in the third year of ownership compared with the first three months, those models that average less than 35 percent problem growth actually demonstrate improvement in overall satisfaction during the three-year period.
The study also finds that five of the top 10 problems reported industry-wide in the 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study were also among the top 10 most frequently reported problems in the 2005 Initial Quality Study, suggesting that the problems are identified by owners during the initial ownership period, but have not been rectified by automakers during the three-year ownership period.
The problems include:
* Excessive wind noise
* Noisy brakes
* Vehicle pulling to the left or right
* Issues with the instrument panel/dashboard
* Excessive window fogging
For a 14th consecutive year, Lexus ranks highest in vehicle dependability, improving by 25 problems per 100 vehicles since 2007 to achieve a score of 120 PP100. Following in the top five rankings are Mercury, Cadillac, Toyota and Acura, respectively.
In addition, Lexus garners six segment awards-the most of any nameplate in 2008-for the ES 330, GX 470, IS 300, LS 430, LX 470 and SC 430. Toyota follows with five segment awards for the Highlander, Prius, RAV4, Sequoia, and Tundra. Ford and Honda each capture two awards. Ford models receiving awards are the Crown Victoria and Ranger, while Honda earns awards for the Element and S2000. Models by Buick, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Mazda and Mercury each rank highest in one segment.
SAAB is the most improved brand in the study, although it continues to rank below the industry average. SAAB improves by 65 PP100 since 2007.
The study finds that long-term vehicle quality has improved by 5 percent industry-wide in 2008-with an overall decrease of 10 problems per 100 vehicles-compared with 2007. More than 60 percent of the 38 nameplates included in the study improve in 2008, compared with 2007. Among the 19 segments included in the study, the midsize premium MAV segment demonstrates the most improvement in 2008-36 PP100 fewer than in 2007. The compact car and midsize car segments also have much lower problem levels in 2008 than in 2007, and together account for more than one-half of the overall industry improvement.
The 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 52,000 original owners of 2005 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded from January through April 2008.
Find more detailed findings on vehicle dependability as well as model photos and specs by reading an article and reviewing brand and segment dependability ratings at JDPower.com.