Industry makes big gains in initial quality, Honda scores three segment leaders


It's that time of year again when automakers either cringe or giggle with glee at the results of the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study. The IQS measures problems per 100 vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership in the areas of quality of design (i.e. poorly designed cupholders) and defects and malfunctions, and the entire auto industry deserves a pat on the back for improving its average in 2008 to 118 problems per 100 vehicles versus 125 PP100 in 2007. J.D. Power says 86% of that gain came from eliminating defects and malfunction in new vehicles. Follow the jump to find out the best performing makes and models in the 2008 IQS.



Now it's time for the rankings themselves, so let's start with brands before we break it down by vehicle segments. Porsche earned the No. 1 spot for the third year in a row with a stellar score of just 87 PP100, while Infiniti jumped from 9th place to 2nd with 98 PP100. Lexus was right behind in 3rd with 99 PP100, while Mercedes-Benz and Toyota tied for 4th with 104 PP100 each. Notably absent from the top five this year is Lincoln, which made headlines in 2007 by earning 3rd place, but fell all the way to 15th in 2008. The highest placing Ford brand this year was Mercury in 5th with 109 PP100, while Ford itself landed in 7th place with 112 PP100. GM's highest performers were Cadillac and Chevy in 10th place, both with 113 PP100, while Pontiac and Buick both scored above the industry average of 118 PP100. Chrysler LLC brands, however, did not do well with all three placing below the industry average. Dodge was highest in the 20th position at 141 PP100, with Chrysler following at 142 PP100 and Jeep coming in dead last with 167 PP100.

Honda already has a big feather for its cap this week after the Civic beat the Ford F-150 in May as best-selling vehicle in the U.S., and the 2008 IQS will add three more quills to the brand's heavy hat. The Honda Fit, Civic and CR-V were all segment leaders, giving Honda the most for any single brand. Honda America also added the Infiniti M-Series and EX-Series. The EX-Series is in its first model year, so winning its segment for 2008 is especially impressive. Kudos are due the new Chevy Malibu, which also led its segment during its first year of production. Though Chrysler brands didn't perform well, the Dodge Dakota and Durango did win the segments of Midsize Pickup and Midsize MAV (SUV). Meanwhile, the Porsche 911 posted the lowest PP100 of all vehicles in the industry at just 67.



PRESS RELEASE

J.D. Power and Associates Reports:
Overall Initial Quality Improves Considerably, with Gains Shared Across Most Manufacturers

American Honda, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation and Toyota Motor Sales
Each Capture Three Initial Quality Model Awards

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 4 June 2008 - Initial quality in the automotive industry has improved significantly in 2008, with substantial gains demonstrated by nearly three-fourths of the 36 ranked nameplates, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Initial Quality StudySM (IQS) released today. Overall quality improves to 118 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2008, down from 125 PP100 in 2007.

"Due to some strong new-vehicle launches, in addition to a continued reduction in the level of defects and malfunctions, overall quality improves by 6 percent in 2008, compared with 2007," said David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. "This gain is driven not only by strong advances from many of the high-volume brands such as Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, but also by very significant improvements by many other automakers. This industry-wide improvement is a testament to the effort that automakers are putting into listening to the voice of the customer, and the hard work they have undertaken to integrate that feedback to design, engineer and manufacture better-quality vehicles. From working closely with the industry, we see the importance that is placed on initial quality. Vehicle manufacturers and consumers alike are reaping the rewards of this effort."

The Initial Quality Study serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study is used extensively by vehicle manufacturers worldwide to help them design and build better vehicles and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions. Initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term durability, which can significantly impact consumer purchase decisions. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories-quality of design and defects and malfunctions.

The study finds that 86 percent of the overall improvement is due to advances in eliminating defects and malfunctions. Minimizing design problems remains a major challenge for the industry, particularly since new technology, such as navigation and entertainment devices, is becoming increasingly common in today's new vehicles.

"As consumer demand for new and more advanced wireless communication, navigation and audio technology continues to grow, manufacturers face challenges related to how well these systems are integrated into their vehicles," said Sargent. "In particular, issues with difficult-to-use audio and entertainment controls and voice command recognition failure are among the top ten problems most frequently reported by customers. Since hands-free communication for drivers will become a mandate in more and more areas throughout the U.S., this will need to be an area of continued focus for automakers."

The study also finds that new-vehicle sales patterns in 2008 have shifted away from the largest models and toward smaller models.

"This shift in sales preferences among new-vehicle buyers is in part a response to rapidly increasing fuel prices," said Sargent. "The good news for consumers in this difficult environment is that they can downsize with confidence, as there are many models with high initial quality in the smaller-vehicle segments. J.D. Power and Associates forecasts that 28 new compact-vehicle models will launch by 2010, and it will be particularly important for manufacturers to ensure high initial quality in these launches."

2008 IQS Ranking Highlights
Honda models capture three segment awards-more than any other nameplate in the 2008 study-for the Civic, CR-V and Fit. Garnering two segment awards each are: Chevrolet (Malibu and Silverado LD); Dodge (Dakota and Durango); Infiniti (EX-Series and M-Series); Lexus (LS and RX); and Mercedes-Benz (CLK-Class and E-Class). The Porsche 911 has the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 67 problems per 100 vehicles. Also receiving segment awards are the Ford E-Series, Lincoln Navigator, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Pontiac Grand Prix Sedan and Toyota Sequoia.

"In past years, automakers have frequently struggled to achieve very high initial quality with new models," said Sargent. "With product launches and redesigns often being problematic for manufacturers from a quality standpoint, it is particularly impressive that the Chevrolet Malibu and Infiniti EX-Series achieve such high levels of quality that they receive awards in their launch year."

For a third consecutive year, Porsche tops the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 87 PP100. Following in the rankings are Infiniti (which improves from 9th rank position in 2007), Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, respectively. Audi posts the largest improvement in ranking, moving from 26th place in 2007 to 10th in 2008.

"Porsche continues its steady improvement and has succeeded in distancing itself from the second-ranked nameplate to a greater degree in 2008-by a gap of 11 PP100-compared with 3 PP100 in 2007," said Sargent.

Assembly Plant Awards
The Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, receives the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles yielding the fewest defects and malfunctions. Averaging just 33 PP100, the plant produces the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, CLS-Class, E-Class Sedan, E-Class Wagon and S-Class. Plant awards are based solely on defect and malfunction counts.

Among North and South American plants, the Toyota plant in Baja California, Mexico, which produces the Toyota Tacoma, achieves the Gold Plant Quality Award.

In the Asia Pacific region, Toyota's Fujimatsu, Japan, plant, which produces the Toyota Prius, receives the Gold Plant Quality Award.

The 2008 Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 81,500 purchasers and lessees of new 2008 model-year cars and trucks surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 228-question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate problem determination and drive product improvement. The study was fielded between February and April 2008.

Find more detailed findings on new-vehicle quality performance as well as model photos and specs by watching a video, reading an article and reviewing quality ratings at JDPower.com.

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