For the first time since 1998, J.D. Power and Associates says its data shows that the average number of problems per 100 cars has increased. The finding is the result of the firm's much-touted annual Vehicle Dependability Study, which charts incidents of problems in new vehicle purchases over three years from 41,000 respondents.
Looking at first-owner cars from the 2011 model year, the study found an average of 133 problems per 100 cars (PP100, for short), up 6 percent from 126 PP100 in last year's study, which covered 2010 model-year vehicles. Disturbingly, the bulk of the increase is being attributed to engine and transmission problems, with a 6 PP100 boost.

Interestingly, JDP notes that "the decline in quality is particularly acute for vehicles with four-cylinder engines, where problem levels increase by nearly 10 PP100." Its findings also noticed that large diesel engines also tended to be more problematic than most five- and six-cylinder engines.

Among individual brands, Lexus has taken the prize for most-dependable nameplate for the third year in a row, registering just 68 problems per 100 vehicles. Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Acura and Buick rounded out the top of the class with 104, 107, 109 and 112 PP100, respectively.

Broken down into specific models, General Motors brands continued their success, winning eight dependability awards for its 2011 models, including prizes for the Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac Escalade and Buick Lucerne. Toyota followed that up with seven prizes split between its Lexus, Toyota and Scion nameplates, while Honda tallied six wins.

For more information, check out the official press release below.

Show full PR text
J.D. Power Reports:
Increased Engine and Transmission Problems Contribute to Decline in Vehicle Dependability for The First Time in More Than 15 Years

General Motors Company Receives Eight Segment Awards, While Toyota Motor Corporation Garners Seven and Honda Motor Company Earns Six

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: ó Owners of 3-year-old vehicles (2011 model year) report more problems than did owners of 3-year-old vehicles last year, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS) released today.

The study, now in its 25th year, examines problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of 2011 model-year vehicles. Overall dependability is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

The study finds that overall vehicle dependability averages 133 PP100, a 6 percent increase in problems from 126 PP100 in 2013. This marks the first time since the 1998 study that the average number of problems has increased.

"Until this year, we have seen a continual improvement in vehicle dependability," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "However, some of the changes that automakers implemented for the 2011 model year have led to a noticeable increase in problems reported."

Increases in Engine and Transmission Problems Reported

Engine and transmission problems increase by nearly 6 PP100 year over year, accounting for the majority of the overall 7 PP100 increase in reported problems. The decline in quality is particularly acute for vehicles with 4-cylinder engines, where problem levels increase by nearly 10 PP100. These smaller engines, as well as large diesel engines, tend to be more problematic than 5- and 6-cylinder engines, for which owners report fewer problems, on average.

"Automakers are continually looking for ways to improve fuel economy, which is a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, particularly those buying smaller vehicles," said Sargent. "However, while striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality. Increases in such problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power indicate that this is a continuing challenge."

Dependability Leads to Loyalty; Poor Dependability Creates Avoidance
J.D. Power also finds that the fewer problems owners experience with their vehicle, the greater their loyalty to the brand. Combined data from previous years' VDS results and vehicle trade-in data from the Power Information NetworkÆ (PIN) from J.D. Power show that 56 percent of owners who reported no problems stayed with the same brand when they purchased their next new vehicle. Brand loyalty slipped to just 42 percent among owners who reported three or more problems.

Also, a comparison of data from the 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study with data from the subsequent J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Avoider StudySM shows that consumers are much more likely to avoid vehicles from brands that rank lower in dependability. On average, 23 percent of consumers avoided brands that ranked in the lowest quartile of the 2013 VDS because of concerns about reliability. In contrast, only 9 percent of consumers cited that same reason for avoiding brands that ranked in the top quartile.

"By combining our customer research with trade-in data, we see a very strong correlation between dependability and real-world brand loyalty," said Sargent. "Also, we see that brands with lower dependability are likely to be shut out of a significant piece of the market, as many consumers will not even consider purchasing one of their vehicles because of concerns about its likely reliability."

Highest-Ranked Nameplates and Models

Lexus ranks highest in vehicle dependability among all nameplates for a third consecutive year. The gap between Lexus and all other brands is substantial, with Lexus averaging 68 PP100 compared with second-ranked Mercedes-Benz at 104 PP100. Following Mercedes-Benz in the rankings are Cadillac (107), Acura (109) and Buick (112), respectively.

General Motors Company receives eight segment awardsómore than any other automaker in 2014ófor the Buick Lucerne; Cadillac DTS (tie); Cadillac Escalade; Chevrolet Camaro; Chevrolet Volt; GMC Sierra HD; GMC Sierra LD; and GMC Yukon. Toyota Motor Corporation garners seven awards for the Lexus ES; Lexus GS; Lexus LS (tie); Lexus RX; Scion xB; Toyota Camry; and Toyota Sienna. Honda Motor Company receives six model-level awards for the Acura RDX; Honda CR-V; Honda Crosstour; Honda Element; Honda Fit; and Honda Ridgeline. MINI receives one model-level award for the MINI Cooper.

The Vehicle Dependability Study is used extensively by manufacturers and suppliers worldwide to help them design and build better vehicles, which typically translates into higher resale values and customer loyalty. It also helps consumers make more-informed choices for both new- and used-vehicle purchases.

The 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 41,000 original owners of 2011 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded between October and December 2013.

Find more detailed information on vehicle dependability, as well as model photos and specs, at

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm not surprised about the engine and transmission problems - there are a heck of alot of new transmission and engine designs that have been recently released, and little time to work out the "bugs".
      • 1 Year Ago
      I take issue with the survey. The main reason being, as stated in the press release "...problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power..." Those are not dependability issues. A lack of power means you score low in dependability? Sorry but there is a difference between the car breaking down versus the driver nitpicking over things like shift quality. Now if the transmission is broken and needs repair, then you have a dependability issue. But if it's just a clunky DCT then it's just a clunky DCT and the buyer should realize that during the test drive. Maybe they should call it "JD Power Vehicle Whiny Customer Survey Results".
        • 1 Year Ago
        Exactly. Also, there's no effort to quantify the MAGNITUDE of problems. In this survey, a single incident of perceived "lack of power" counts the same as a complete engine failure.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I am not surprised that Lexus is once again at the top of the list. I am surprised and pleased that Mercedes is ranked 2nd, albeit by a pretty good margin. Good job both!
      • 1 Year Ago
      I will admit cars from the mid to late 90s were extremely well built import/domestic does not matter they were decent cars. To be fair four cylinders are not as simple as they use to be. The hefty demand in four cylinder engines by consumers is causing automakers to pump out more and more and they are adapting even more and more technology in these four cylinders to improve efficiency. Six cylinders which use to be the go to engines by consumers many years ago, there popularity allowed car makers to become very familiar with them work out the kinks. It’s just a phase as four cylinders grow more popular the automakers will improve them just like six cylinders. There is a reason why companies like Nissan continue to use the VQ V6 which came around in the mid 90s it’s been a good engine or the popular GM LS motors.
      • 1 Year Ago
      My guess is that the new trend of turbo 4 cylinders are responsible for the decline. Just about every maker has gone to forced induction for the sake of fuel economy. Now, in lieu of a V6, they offer a turbo 4. Same for turbo 6 for a V8. However, many of these engines are new and are made by companies with traditionally little experience in turbocharging. Only the Japanese and Germans have made turbos consistently for decades. Turbocharged cars simply have more problems due to higher pressures, greater heat, and more complicated parts. Not too surprising. My guess on big diesels is because of the stress they endure. Most of these are full size trucks that are constantly hauling stuff. They have more stress on their engines and transmissions than any other non-commercial vehicle. That would be my guess. Regardless, I trust Consumer Reports more than J.D. Power. Their method of collecting data does not reflect their claims. They talk of "dependability" but only measure new cars for a few years. What should be more important is how these cars fare out of warranty several years from purchase if you want to measure dependability, durability, and reliability. Consumer Reports has better data on this. Also, companies *pay* J.D. Power to collect data. CR buys the cars to rate them and then surveys owners. Consumer Reports have no financial affiliation to the auto corps unlike J.D. Power. J.D. Power bias is quite noticeable. For example, in 2011, they claimed the Suzuki Kizashi had one of the highest owner satisfaction ratings. The next year, in 2012, they gave it a poor rating overall. The only difference that happened between the Kizashi, Suzuki, and J.D. Power was that Suzuki stopped paying J.D. Power for research in 2012. This was all before the announcement of the Suzuki exodus in North America. Biased much?
        • 1 Year Ago
        Echoes of the rating agencies on Wall Street and all the AAA-rated junk they put on the market, so they could get PAID.
        • 1 Year Ago
        how many turbo four do we have? we have more N/A than turbo four.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lexus (and Toyota) clearly make reliable cars, but its very reassuring to see Cadillac and Buick being near the top of this list year after year. I have always said that for Detroit to shed its image of making unreliable cars, they can't just get good marks on a couple of these surveys, and instead need to do it year after year. Well to a large degree, the luxury divisions of GM are doing just that. They need to continue doing this and can't let up, but the only way to really change one's reputation is with consistently good product.
      Max Bullo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Problems per 100 cars: 68 Lexus VS 151 Audi. More than double. Absolutely fantastic. Lexus is my dream brand:)
      • 1 Year Ago
      Interesting. The brands in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place have score of 104 to 112, while Lexus stands way ahead with 68.
      Alfonso T. Alvarez
      • 1 Year Ago
      This 'study' is just plain and simply useless. The way they phrase the questions does not lend to getting quality data. So, someone who was used to driving a six cylinder, buys a four cylinder car and notices it doesn't accelerate as well and is noisier when accelerating quickly and puts it into the 'survey' results in a decline in quality? What a crock!
        Massimo Balloni
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alfonso T. Alvarez
        Plain and useless just because Lexus win and german loose? Check it out:
      • 1 Year Ago
      we need to take a look what is causing the problem, as JD power state" Automakers are continually looking for ways to improve fuel economy, which is a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, particularly those buying smaller vehicles," said Sargent. "However, while striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality. Increases in such problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power indicate that this is a continuing challenge." So it is the new technology just need some fine tunning, I do not think quality exactly has fallen, if these company was using the same old engine and transmission like toyota they would have a better result, but these new tech just need time to be iron out the problem, yesterday honda recall the fit for reprogramming of the DCT, nissan reprogram their new CVt, ford has issue with dual clutch, and the list goes on.
        • 1 Year Ago
        tell that to mazda and subaru.
          Kuro Houou
          • 1 Year Ago
          Not sure why Mazda, their quality is only going up from what all magazines and reviews are saying, even CR. Subaru on the other hand, while I do think the majority of their cars will last a long time, interior and exterior quality is going down the tubes in the design department.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Maybe the increased use of technology is not really paying any dividends
      Black Dyanmite
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lexus just pulling away from the so-called competition in reliability? The hell you say! There is Lexus, and then everything else. 68 per 100 for entire brand of 10 vehicles? Most companies would give their left nut for one model doing that well! Excuse Lexus while they dominate..... BD
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Black Dyanmite
        Lexus sells what, five models? They are not a full line luxury car maker.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Black Dyanmite
        @BD: you need to hold your horses and get your **** together buddy. Calling others a hater doesn't make you a lover. So calm your nuts down. Oh and before you call me a hater, I drive a 2013 Lexus GS350 F sport and my dad a 2007 Lexus LS. Just sayin..
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Black Dyanmite
        Well at least Lexus can pull away from the competition in one way...since it won't be pulling away from anyone out on the road. Especially with it's notoriously crappy drivers behind the wheel. Oh yeah...I'm not a hater either. One of my cars is a Lexus. ;)
      • 1 Year Ago
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