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Late-model used cars score record reliability ratings, J.D. Power says

Annual survey shows Lexus, Porsche among top car brands for 3-year dependability.

By Clifford Atiyeh Feb 13, 2013 11:29AM
Late-model used cars have never been more reliable -- even if you're buying an expensive German sports car.

That's the takeaway from the latest J.D. Power Dependability Study, an annual owner survey that reports defects on 3-year-old cars within the past 12 months.

Overall, the industry average totaled 126 problems per 100 cars, the lowest average in the survey's 24-year history. Last year, J.D. Power and Associates, a consumer research company owned by McGraw Hill, recorded 132 problems.

Lexus owners reported the fewest problems, at 74 per 100 vehicles, followed by Porsche (94), a tie between Lincoln and Toyota (112) and Mercedes-Benz (115).

Buick, Honda, Acura, Ram, Suzuki, Mazda and Chevrolet all finished with fewer problems than the industry average, in that order. The Lexus RX posted "the fewest problems in the industry" at 57 per 100 vehicles. Among brands, Ram posted the highest year-over-year improvement, dropping 52 reported problems from 2012.

"There is a perception that all-new models, or models that undergo a major redesign, are more problematic than carryover models," David Sargent, vice president of the company's automotive division, said in a press release. "The rapid improvement in fundamental vehicle dependability each year is more than offsetting any initial glitches that all-new or redesigned models may have." 

That news may be a boon for new-car dealers. Last year, despite inventory shortages, dealers sold a record number of certified pre-owned cars, which are typically trade-ins from 3-year leases. In our report of 2012 used-car sales, Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, told us he expected dealers to sell an additional 600,000 certified cars by year's end.

More than 37,000 owners of 2010 model-year vehicles were polled on 202 different problems between October and December. Owners are paid (about $1) for their answers. J.D. Power charges fees to automakers that advertise the company's awards and analyze its entire results. Consumer Reports conducts a similar annual reliability survey among its 1 million-plus subscribers but does not solicit any fees or payments.

Unlike the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, which tracks the number of new-car problems within the first 90 days of ownership, the Dependability Study doesn't rely as heavily on subjective, design-related questions and is more concerned with defects and malfunctions, the company said.

“There are some problems like 'difficult to operate' that are [recorded as] initial problems [in the Initial Quality Study], but we capture these also as reliability problems [in the Dependability Study]," Raffi Festekjian, director of automotive global research, told MSN Autos in an email. "Like a latch is broken or difficult to operate (like not enough lubrication, or multiple uses causes the latch to break over time).”


The survey is organized in the same eight problem categories as the Initial Quality Study, including exterior; driving experience; features/controls/displays; audio/entertainment/navigation; seats; HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning); interior; and engine/transmission.

Check back with MSN Autos on Thursday for a full analysis of all the top-scoring used cars in each segment.

[Source: J.D. Power]
3Comments
Feb 13, 2013 5:32PM
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This articled summarized: Cars today are better (overall) than those made in 1989.    
Feb 19, 2013 11:21AM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't J.D. Power rank the Porsche 911 as one of the least reliable vehicles in their initial quality study?  Why does anyone even listen to these guys in the first place?  It seems that if you simply put something on the internet and call it a study, blind fools who know nothing about cars will read it and believe it.  I love when customers come in to my store after reading such articles, like in Consumer Reports, that are written by the same consumers who know nothing about cars in the first place.  It makes my day.  Keep drinking the Kool-Aid people. 

Feb 13, 2013 12:24PM
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