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J.D. Power study finds autos are more reliable

J.D. Power and Associates' annual dependability study finds fewer reported problems with vehicles. On average, there were 151 problems per 100 3-year-old cars. But automakers are seeing an increased rate of problems with cars' electronic features.

March 18, 2011|By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
  • Toyotas Lexus brand ranked second to Fords Lincoln in dependability in the J.D. Power survey. The Toyota brand came in fifth. Above, a 2008 Lexus IS F.
Toyotas Lexus brand ranked second to Fords Lincoln in dependability in… (Spencer Weiner, Los Angeles…)

The auto industry is producing more reliable vehicles. That's the finding of a J.D. Power and Associates dependability study examining problems experienced during the last 12 months by owners of 2008 model-year vehicles.

The study, released Thursday, found there were an average of 151 problems per 100 of the 3-year-old vehicles during the time period surveyed. That was the lowest problem rate since the inception of the study in 1990 and an improvement from the 155 problems per 100 vehicles that owners of 2007 models reported in last year's study, J.D. Power said.

Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln brand had the best score — 101 problems per 100 vehicles. Lexus, a division of Toyota Motor Corp., was second with 109.

Ford executives saw that as good news as they try to rebuild Lincoln, whose sales trail the major European and Japanese luxury brands, as well as General Motors Co.'s Cadillac division.

"Long-term durability is the perfect foundation upon which to build the resurgence of the Lincoln brand," Scott Tobin, director of Lincoln product development. "We have the dependability that's important to consumers."

Jaguar was third at 112, Porsche fourth at 114, and the Toyota brand, notwithstanding millions of recalls in the last 18 months, still ranked fifth with 122.

Mini, a division of BMW, fared the worst, scoring 221. Jeep, 214; Land Rover, 212; Dodge, 206; and Chrysler, 202, rounded out the bottom five.

With the exception of Chrysler Group, which owns the Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler brands, the other American nameplates scored near or above average in the dependability rankings.

"We didn't see any surprises in the J.D. Power results on the 3-year-old vehicles that were built during some challenging times for the company," said Doug Betts, Chrysler Group's senior vice president for quality. "In the past couple years, we've issued several voluntary customer satisfaction campaigns and extended warranties to take care of owners of 2008 model-year vehicles."

In general, automakers "have made significant improvements in reducing traditional problems, particularly with vehicle interiors, engines and transmissions and steering and braking during the past several years," said David Sargent, a J.D. Power vice president.

Auto companies, however, are seeing increased rates of problems with electronic features in vehicles, including audio, entertainment and navigation systems and new safety features, such as tire-pressure monitoring systems, he said.

Toyota had the top vehicles in seven segment awards, the most of any automaker.

The Lexus RX 350 was the top luxury crossover. Other top-ranked Toyota-built vehicles included the Scion xB compact utility vehicle, Toyota 4Runner midsize SUV, Toyota Prius sedan, Toyota Sienna minivan, Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup truck and Toyota Tundra large pickup.

"More than ever, consumers are considering durability as a key component in their vehicle purchase decision, and these awards are one more key indicator that Toyota continues to take the lead," said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Ford had four top models, including the Ford Fusion midsize sedan, the Ford Mustang, the Lincoln MKZ sedan and the Lincoln Navigator SUV.

General Motors placed three vehicles among the top models, including the Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS and Chevrolet Tahoe.

Honda Motor Co. also had three: the Acura RL, Honda CR-V and Honda Fit. Other top-ranked models included the BMW X3, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Mercedes-Benz CLK.

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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