Taking a Closer Look at Automotive Quality Scores

In yesterday's post, I discussed Toyota's recall and stop-sale of 2.3 million cars, trucks and SUVs.  

One of my deepest concerns is that consumers are making their automotive purchase decisions based only on the perception of high quality, rather than having an understanding of how quality is rated.

I mentioned yesterday that all of the major manufacturers produce outstanding quality vehicles, and none of them really hold the "Quality Banner" over the others.  I wanted to take a moment to explain that statement.

One of the most commonly-sited indicators of quality in a new car is the JD Power IQS.  This "Initial Quality Survey" tracks the number of problem complaints owners of new cars report having with their vehicles in the first year of operation. 

This survey is reported in terms of the number of problems owners reported per 100 vehicles, and covers a total of 228 potential problems in categories such as exterior, driving experience, displays, interior, HVAC, and transmission.

Overall, the industry average for new vehicles in 2009 was 108 problems per 100 cars. (about 1.1 problem reported per car in one year).  The very best rating in 2009 was that of 84 problems per car. 

The difference between the best and the industry average?  One-third of a problem per car in one year's time.  For the drivers of those different brands, that's not very much real difference at all, is it?

On a brand-level, here are the makers who came in with "above average" scores of fewer than 108 problems per 100 cars:

  1. Lexus: 84 problems per 100 cars, or .8 problems per car
  2. Porsche: 90
  3. Cadillac: 91
  4. Hyundai:  95
  5. Honda: 99
  6. Mercedes-Benz: 101
  7. Toyota: 101
  8. Ford: 102
  9. Chevrolet: 103
  10. Suzuki: 103
  11. Infiniti: 106
  12. Mercury: 106

Since the best of the best are ranking in at roughly 1 problem per car, I'm pretty happy to note that none of the Jim Ellis brands falls below the "2 problems per car" mark. 

Volkswagen is reported with 112 problems per 100 cars, or 1.12 problems per car, Buick and GMC have 1.16 and 1.17 problems per car, respectively.  Audi has 1.18 problems per vehicle, Mazda has 1.23 problems, and Saab has 1.38 problems reported.  

These surveys get even more in-depth and look at makes and models of the highest quality vehicles, broken down into segments.  Again and again, you can see that the brands we perceive to be high quality aren't always at the top of the list.   For example, the Hyundai Elantra Sedan beat out both the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic for the Compact Car segment.

When you're talking about .8 of a problem and 1.4 problems per year for a new car, the difference is really no difference at all!

Of course, even if a consumer is digging beyond perceived quality and taking a look at the real scores and rankings, the rating of "problem-free" should not be the only thing he or she should consider. 

Check out tomorrow's post "Considerations beyond Quality for Car-Buying Decisions." for a list of other factors you might want to keep in mind!
Categories: New Inventory, News


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