"GM had a banner year with eight model-level awards when the next best was three," said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive for J.D. Power. It was particularly impressive "considering where they were four or five years ago, when people said their vehicles should be kicked to the curb."
GMC rose from 9th position last year to second-best, and Chevrolet jumped from 15th to fifth. Buick went from below average on the Power ranking to tied with Chrysler for 15th place. Cadillac unfortunately slipped from fourth to 14th, due largely to the introductions of the new ATS and XTS sedans and those cars' new high-tech dashboard interface.
New infotainment and connectivity systems, in fact, have been responsible for the biggest hits to quality rankings and reputation. In the 2012 Initial Quality Survey, the biggest source of complaints came from audio, entertainment and navigation systems, Sargent said.
"Customers aren't getting any more comfortable [with these systems]," said Sargent, while speaking in Detroit at the Automotive Press Association. He warned that automakers should not regard the declining quality scores it as a reflection of older buyers being slower to adapt. "Young people report more technology problems."
Ford has been particularly hit by both Power and Consumer Reports over complaints around its MyFord Touch system. Ford has fallen to 7th from the bottom of Power's rankings out of 32 brands even while the build quality of its cars and trucks has gotten steadily better -- except for its infotainment systems.
Take a look at the gallery of quality leaders in their respective categories.
No. 5 Worst - MINIProblems Per 100 Vehicles: 135
People love MINIs for their quirky styling, driving dynamics and great fuel economy, but the IQS shows that when it comes to quality, there's a lot to be desired.
No. 4 Worst - NissanProblems Per 100 Vehicles: 142
Nissan vehicles like the Pathfinder (pictured) and Altima have been big sellers. At 142 problems per 100 vehicles, however, Nissan buyers may find themselves back at the dealer for repairs sooner than they anticipated.
No. 3 Worst - MitsubishiProblems Per 100 Vehicles:
Despite speculation that it would leave the US market, Mitsubishi is still making cars, although apparently not very well. Mitsubishis experienced 148 problems per 100 vehicles according to the study.
No. 2 Worst - Fiat 500Problems Per 100 Vehicles: 154
Fiat is on a mission to get a firm foothold here in the US. Making higher quality vehicles would probably help them do so. According to J.D. Power, Fiats experienced 154 problems per 100 vehicles.
No. 1 Worst - ScionProblems Per 100 Vehicles: 161
Scion was the worst performer in the study, which is odd, considering that Scion is a Toyota brand and Toyota has a great reputation for quality vehicles. Scion had 161 problems per 100 vehicles. Ouch.
No. 5 Best - ChevroletProblems Per 100 Vehicles: 97
Chevrolet experienced an enormous jump in initial quality, according to the study. At 97 problems per 100 vehicles, it took the fifth spot, up from 15th last year.
No. 4 Best - InfinitiProblems Per 100 Vehicles: 95
Infiniti took the 4th best spot in the study, which is curious given that Nissan, which makes Infiniti, was the 4th worst. The luxury vehicles experienced just 95 problems per 100 vehicles.
No. 3 Best - Lexus
Problems Per 100 Vehicles: 94
Toyota's luxury brand was one of the top performers on the 2013 IQS with 94 problems per 100 vehicles. Although some of the new Lexus designs are polarizing, there's still no debating their quality.
No. 2 Best - GMC SierraProblems Per 100 Vehicles: 90
GMC was another big improver from last year -- up to the number two spot from the number nine spot last year. GMC trucks are among the most capable on the road and, with just 90 problems per 100 vehicles, they're now one of the best for quality.
No. 1 Best - PorscheProblems Per 100 Vehicles: 80
The storied sports car brand took the top spot in this year's Initial Quality Study with 80 problems per 100 vehicles. Porsche buyers will be spending a lot more time on the road than in the repair shop, which is exactly where they belong.