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As automakers have made engines smaller and smaller to improve fuel economy, problems in those vehicles have gotten bigger and bigger. That's the synopsis of a J.D. Power vehicle-dependability study, which found that dependability dropped for the first time in 16 years, largely because the proliferation of four-cylinder engines is causing the vehicles to be less reliable. Specifically, the number of problems per 100 vehicles (or what J.D. Power calls PP100) during the past 12 months for 2011 model-year vehicles rose six percent from the year-earlier figures for 2010 model-year cars. Singling out four-cylinder vehicles revealed about a 10-percent increase in problems during the past year.

This issues largely related to engine hesitation, rough transmission shifting and lack of power, signaling the inability of vehicle makers to iron out some of the problems in their smaller engines as they strove for better fuel economy. Six- and five-cylinder engines proved far more reliable.

Among car brands, BMW's Mini sub-brand came out as least reliable, with 185 problems per 100 vehicles during the past year. Toyota's Lexus badge was easily the most reliable, with just 68 problems per 100 vehicles. Coming in second place was Mercedes-Benz. The overall average was 133. Check out J.D. Power's press release below.


JD Power 2014 Reliability Study
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 JDPower.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 42 Comments
      Actionable Mango
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't understand how Lexus can be so much more reliable than Toyota. I know Lexus is nicer, but aren't we talking about cars that all have the same platforms? Acura and Honda are right next to each other, as I would expect.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Better QC on the final check. There may be the same number of problems immediately off the line, but they're more likely to get fixed on the Lexus line before they manage to get out the door.
        Dave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        "I don't understand how Lexus can be so much more reliable than Toyota." Did you notice Scion at 153? That's 20 problems worse than average! Have Toyota's ever scored that badly?
      LEONARD
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hmmm how many software/computer problems that result in car running not to par? our just lazy people that drive there cars into the ground and only fix them when something breaks?
      BraveLil'Toaster
      • 1 Year Ago
      I guess we're just going to have to go electric then.
      Frank
      • 1 Year Ago
      What an absurd conclusion. How about the fact that manufacturers have switched to new, unproven technologies and are still working the kinks out? How about the fact that Mini has been unreliable since the day it was introduced and continues to be plagued by electrical problems regardless of the engine? The connection between engine size and reliability is not there. The connection between new vs. old (and therefore, prove) is. Idiots.
      BipDBo
      • 1 Year Ago
      I saw this one coming. This is only part of it, though. This is just short term reliability of new cars. It's really just a measure of bugs being worked out in a newer, more complicated engine technology. I fear that these direct injected, forced induction engines will see a more dramatic drop in their long term durability, which is really a completely different, almost completely unrelated measure. We won't really have much of idea of the results for several years. These newer engines have much higher power density which increases stress. It's like applying the same force to a smaller area. Is has higher pressure. These engines have more sensors and controls that can go wrong after many miles. Newer engines in general, also often have thing like lower viscosity oils which require much tighter tolerances, and might not be sufficient as an aging engine wears down. If you drive many miles, and you want long term durability, a car that will flip 100,000 miles not once but a few times, I think that your best bet is a power split hybrid like the Prius, Volt or Ford hybrids. Here's why: * These hybrid like the Prius have stood the test as some of the longest lasting cars you can buy * A naturally aspirated Atkinson tuned engine, common in these hybrids is very simple, very durable, and with low power density. Will run for a very long time. * Electric motor acts a "power flywheel" to the engine, making the engine's duty cycle much more constant, increasing engine life. * The transmission, often the Achilles heal of a car, is replaced with a simple, gear box that does not shift. It's pretty much indestructible, so transmission woes are gone.
        futurecars
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BipDBo
        you realise that the toyota prius or the ford hybrids are no where on the list of top reliable cars, in neither compact or subcompact, so they have problems, except the volt. http://autos.jdpower.com/ratings/2014-Vehicle-Dependability-Study-Press-Release.htm
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @futurecars
          @bipDBo, Aaron is correct the power split is a transmission. http://prius.ecrostech.com/original/Understanding/PowerSplitDevice.htm there are more than one type of power split devices, from this study you can realise that nissan ff hybrid system is a power split device, as it has no torque converter, and it can operate both motor and engine together for one output or they can operate separately.
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @futurecars
          http://nissannews.com/en-US/nissan/usa/videos/ff-hybrid-system?page=5
          BipDBo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @futurecars
          apples to oranges. I'm talking about long term durability; how many hundreds of thousands of miles and decades can the car go. I'm not talking about these new car reliability ratings which measure minor issues that usually happen while under warrantee. When these hybrids came out, a lot of people worried, justifiably so about the added complication. For some models, significant problems did occur, such as the complete failure of a battery pack in the civic hybrid. Most hybrids, the Prius in particular, however have proven to be much more long lasting and durable than the average car. I predict that the Volt will also prove very durable over the long haul.
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @futurecars
          @bipDBo , "Some hybrids, like Nissans' have a belt CVT and torque converters." First of all nissan hybrids donot use torque converter, it consist of a motor sandwich by clutches, then it goes through a simple CVT setup, so basically it is like the power split setup, which has a motor driving the gear box and determine the ratio. Why power split is consider a like CVT is that CVT has infinite ratio, it is program to make it feel more like a conventional automatic. Honda CVT are program with more set points than nissan CVT so yo feel less of the rubber band effect but you get worse fuel economy.
          GoodCheer
          • 1 Year Ago
          @futurecars
          "from this study you can realise that nissan ff hybrid system is a power split device" Please elaborate on what power is split. From that animation I concluded that it is not a power split device, but simply an ICE and an electric motor (with a clutch between them, unlike Honda's) that then go through a transmission. I'm with BipDBo; avoiding components that are required to slip while conveying power (clutches and belt CVT, for instance) is likely to be a good thing in the long run.
          Aaron
          • 1 Year Ago
          @futurecars
          @BipDBo: You realize the Prius and other hybrids DO have transmissions. CVTs in the Prius, for example. Only true EVs don't have "transmissions" -- they have reduction gearsets that don't change ratios.
          BipDBo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @futurecars
          Aaron Sorry, but you're wrong on this one. These hybrids do not have transmissions, not at least as we know them in ICE vehicles. What they have is a power split device. It's a planetary gearset, basically a differential transferring power in the reverse direction. It takes two inputs of power (engine & motor/generator) and combine them into on power output, instead of the other way around The output shaft of the gearset is then connected to a third power input, another electric motor. Unlike a transmission, there is no ratio changing, so switching of gears, not synchronizers, clutches, torque converters, belts, controls, nothing. It's really no more complicated than a differential. The mechanics is very different from a belt CVT, but there are some similar end results because the motors and engine basically trade rpms, allowing the engine to change it's rpm at an given vehicle speed to meet power demand. All of the controls are outside of this gearset, in the engine controls, managing the engine output and the rpms of the motors and the electrical current flowing in and out of them. In actuality, this system is incredibly complex on an R&D level. There is a lot of design and computer programming that goes into it, so it's not cheap or easy to develop. Mechanically, however, it is very simple, because it replaces all those moving parts of a transmission; multiple gearsets, synchronizers, friction plates, etc, with software complexity, something that can't wear out over time. Your misunderstanding comes from reporting of these cars saying that they have an eCVT. These power split devices are so incredibly different from CVTs or any other transmission, though that they should have a more unique name like PSD for "power split device". Some hybrids, like Nissans' have a belt CVT and torque converters. I'd shy away from this design. http://auto.howstuffworks.com/hybrid-car7.htm
      Mike Lawson
      • 1 Year Ago
      It was bound to happen when companies started putting smaller motors in cars. A smaller turbocharged or high-compression engine will make as much power and torque as a milder, larger motor but for not as long -and its components won't last as long either.
      CoolWaters
      • 1 Year Ago
      Jeep, Land Rover, Dodge, Mini, OUCH.
        EZEE2
        • 1 Year Ago
        @CoolWaters
        And, I am not sure how many four cylinders are in land rovers, nor even jeep, for that matter (they will have some, I assume)
        Samuel Look
        • 1 Year Ago
        @CoolWaters
        The morale of the story is never trust the guy who just started making fuel efficient cars to build your city runabout, just buy it off the Japanese guy who's probably been doing it for a century or so...
      • 1 Year Ago
      I will continue to love my Mini until I can afford a Tesla! :-P
        CoolWaters
        • 1 Year Ago
        Since you own a mini, is the Mini geared properly? You can't just drop in a small engine, it should be properly geared so that it can accelerate easily.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @CoolWaters
          Almost geared properly. 6th needs to be taller to be a proper over drive. Acceleration is never an issue, but then it is turbo charged.
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Well . . . move to electrics and dependability should increase. No oil, no transmission, no exhaust system, no clutch, no fuel system, no ignition system, etc.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        According to Fox News.. what about neglecting the Inverter Fluid /sarc
          EZEE2
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          LOL! I can imagine if the story on fox was reported in 1905, they would say that although electrics have inverter fluid, the ICE has coolant, oil, transmission/differential fluid... As non biased as I can say, if you don't check and change your fluids, be they oil, tranny, differential, inverter, fuel rod water, dilithium crystal lubricant, Mr. Fusion oil, then you have no one to blame but yourself, if you are stuck by the side of the road, on Riza, or 1864.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      Feel free to downvote - shoot the messenger: "Tesla Motors Inc., awaiting results of a U.S. probe into crash-related battery fires and which updated software to prevent overheating when recharging, said it’s investigating a fire involving a Model S in Canada. The fire happened in a Toronto garage this month shortly after the car’s owner returned from a drive, and the vehicle wasn’t plugged in to recharge when it occurred, the Business Insider website said Thursday. “After a few moments, the owner’s fire detector went off and the fire department was called,” Business Insider said, without providing details. Tesla is reviewing the fire and hasn’t determined how it began, said Liz Jarvis-Shean, a spokeswoman for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based carmaker." "Tesla sent seven employees to review the Toronto fire, Business Insider said. “The company also offered to take care of the damages and inconvenience caused by the fire, but the owner declined,” the report said." http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140214/AUTO01/302140073#ixzz2tJza17aQ
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Link to article with more pics: http://business.financialpost.com/2014/02/14/tesla-catches-fire-while-sitting-in-a-toronto-garage/
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        NHTSA cannot 'investigate' any incidents in Canada.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Ah... misread the sentence. Thanks.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          The NHTSA is still investigating the US incidents. They're not looking at the Toronto incident, but Tesla is.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        I'm eager to hear more . . . if not the charger (it wasn't even plugged in) and not the battery . . . what could have happened? A problem in the power electronics?
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          ABG has an article now... yay! *rolls eyes*
        EZEE2
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Only jerks downvote facts. And Cool....a story on this is not necessarily a bad thing, nor even a fire. The tesla is brand new, and stuff happens. I would personally never buy a vehicle it's first year out. So many parts, there are bound to be issues. Elon Musk will look into this, and like any good company, will fix anything that needs to be fixed. One ignores problems at their peril. Ford did on the Pinto and that was a huge, and tragic black eye for them. And yes, Cool, some people will use a tesla fire for nefarious purposes, but as long as the product is good, the world will beat a path to their door. Okay, now go ahead and rant.
        CoolWaters
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Why don't you google GAS FIRES as well.
      jebibudala
      • 1 Year Ago
      This has got to be one of the most misleading articles I've read, ever. It's not the size of the engine, but rather the complexity of the systems and software that control the drivetrain. Transmissions are 10x more complex than previous. Electric/hydraulic operated manuals have replaced traditional autos, this accounts for most of the hesitation issues. Not too long ago things were just as basic as points ignition, carburetor, cable actuated clutch & throttle. Then EPA got involved and BAM you get runaway Prius's all over the place.
      mikeybyte1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sorry but "...issues largely related to engine hesitation, rough transmission shifting and lack of power.." are not dependability issues. Those are whiny buyer issues. Next time do a proper test drive. Your car is still dependable if you don't like how much power it has. If you don't like the lack of power then you shouldn't have bought it in the first place. JD Powers continues to descend into irrelevance. I swear, the more cars become reliable the more they make up new crap to judge them on.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        Yep, title of this article is designed for hits… I just don’t trust Danny’s “synopsis” without reading the entire “study” myself. I don’t think a lot of critical thinking went into it... or maybe detail was lacking. I agree with your assessment mikebyte1… also from actual evidence and my own experience within my car club. My 75 BMW 2.0 4 cyl has well over 200,000, is quite reliable and still going strong. Granted the car is lighter than todays, but I only have a little over 100 HP and a 4 speed…. These 4 bangers today are FI, turbocharged, etc with twice to three times the HP/torque, not to mention the amazing diesels many are producing. I am sure there are many factors that can truly be analysed by Powers to come up with a more accurate assessment rather than simply implying that the re-introduction of 4 cylinder engines is a bad thing. What do you think Danny… is there more to the story?
        Aaron
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        Over time, grunge tends to cake onto the insides of engines (especially throttle body) which can cause engine hesitation and lack of power. Since today's engines run at higher revs and temperatures, this problem is worsened. Rough transmission shifting can also occur over time, not detectable on an initial test drive. My Mazda 3 had a very rough 1-2 shift that started about 5 years after I purchased it.
          GoodCheer
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Aaron
          I'm not clear on how having 4 cylinders rather than 6 or 8 worsens the problem of grunge building up on throttle bodies. I would think that would be a function of how many cold starts happen. Similarly, what is the connection between rough transmissions and the number of cylinders?
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