Nissan rushes to grapple with poor quality survey scores

While Nissan has never enjoyed the same stellar reputation for quality as its Japanese compatriots at Toyota and Honda, it has lately found itself in danger of acquiring the opposite rep. Nissan's performance on influential J.D. Power quality and dependability studies has been below average lately, as many of its rivals have improved. Nissan will be launching a new quality plan in November, but Automotive News has the scoop today.

The most immediate change in Nissan's quality approach is a shoot-the-messenger measure requiring dealers to present car buyers with a two-page quick-reference guide that's part of 2012 owner manuals. The manual insert will seek to address some of the common threads that have cropped up in J.D. Power survey results. Nissan will also be addressing some of the most frequent customer complaints, like poor shift quality from its new seven-speed automatic transmissions used in Infiniti products. Nissan tells AN that it is already upgrading the software in the transmissions.

While that's a start, Nissan has a long way to go to hit its stated goal of having both Nissan and Infiniti brands in J.D. Power's top three in their respective categories by 2016. Nissan ranked just 24th in the Initial Quality Survey released in June, and managed only 25th in the Vehicle Dependability Survey, according to AN.

Other issues that have bothered Nissan customers include difficulties with HVAC controls, confusing rear wiper controls, and using hands-free phone systems. Kazumasa Katoh, Senior Vice President of Global Quality, said that these kinds of customer complaints are the result of Nissan customers' embrace of new technology, which can be complicated.

We've heard this line rather often, ever since Mercedes-Benz saw its J.D. Power scores plummet almost a decade ago. Yet automakers seem to continue to struggle in designing in-car systems that are simple and intuitive. Earlier this year, Ford's MyFord Touch system led Consumer Reports to pull its coveted Recommended rating from the 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX.

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