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J.D. Power finds first drop in vehicle reliability in 15 years

2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study shows increase in problems due to more 4-cylinder engines.

By Douglas Newcomb Feb 12, 2014 3:14PM

While new cars are getting better fuel economy, they may also be less reliable because of it. That’s the takeaway from the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, which found a 6 percent increase in problems reported, the first such rise in more than 15 years.

 

According to J.D. Power, the reason falls on more efficient, smaller 4-cylinder engines.


“Automakers are continually looking for ways to improve fuel economy” David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement, “which is a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, particularly those buying smaller vehicles. However, while striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality.”

 

For the 2014 study, now in its 25th year, J.D. Power surveyed 41,000 original owners of 2011 model-year vehicles between October and December 2013. The research firm asked about problems experienced with a vehicle within the past 12 months. It then calculated dependability by examining the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles.

 

The study revealed an overall average dependability of 133 problems per 100 cars and a 6 percent increase in reported engine and transmission problems -- the first since 1998. This accounted for the majority of the average 7-point increase versus 2013. The 2014 study also found that problem levels increased by nearly 10 points in vehicles with 4-cylinder engines.

“These smaller engines, as well as large diesel engines, tend to be more problematic than 5- and 6-cylinder engines, for which owners report fewer problems, on average,” J.D. Power and Associates said in a statement.

 

Broken down by brand, Lexus outperformed its closest rival by an impressive margin, at 68 problems per 100 cars, with Mercedes-Benz coming in second at 104 and Cadillac third with 107. General Motors led the vehicle segment awards with eight winners in the study, more than any other automaker. Toyota had seven segment awards and Honda earned six. See below for the full list of winners.

 

According to J.D. Power, these numbers not only give automakers bragging rights but also translate to sales. Its research shows that 56 percent of owners who reported no problems purchased the same brand for their next new vehicle, whereas brand loyalty dropped to 42 percent when owners reported three or more problems.

 


Highest-ranked 2011 cars from the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study:


Subcompact: Honda Fit

Compact: Chevrolet Volt

Compact Premium: Lexus ES

Compact Sporty: MINI Cooper

Midsize: Toyota Camry

Midsize Sporty: Chevrolet Camaro

Midsize Premium: Lexus GS

Large: Buick Lucerne

Large Premium: Cadillac DTS, Lexus LS


Highest-ranked 2011 SUVs, vans and pickups from the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study:


Subcompact SUV: Honda Element

Compact SUV: Honda CR-V

Compact Premium SUV: Acura RDX

Compact MPV (Wagon): Scion xB

Midsize SUV: Honda Crosstour

Midsize Premium SUV: Lexus RX

Midsize Pickup: Honda Ridgeline

Minivan: Toyota Sienna

Large SUV: GMC Yukon

Large Premium SUV: Cadillac Escalade

Large Light-Duty Pickup: GMC Sierra 1500

Large Heavy-Duty Pickup: GMC Sierra 2500 and up


 J.D. Power and Associates 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. Image by J.D. Power and Associates.


[Source: J.D. Power and Associates]

207Comments
Feb 12, 2014 5:11PM
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the mini is ranked last, yet it gets best subcompact sporty. this rating is worthless.
Feb 12, 2014 5:06PM
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This study is most helpful but does not address vehicle choices by user requirements and also does not reveal the cause of the problems.  User abuse or neglect can be a direct cause for problems and effects the perspective of the quality issue. 
In the case of 4 cylinder engines and transmissions knowing the cause could greatly help a consumer to understand what choice to make in a purchase decision. Knowing the answer to these questions would greatly help me make a decision this year....and in future years. . 
Thanks for sharing this info however. 
Feb 12, 2014 5:49PM
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The U.S. autos are using junk parts made in China. If you don't believe this, go to your nearest Auto supply store. Get a Delco part, box says Delco take out part, You will see Made in China  stamped on the part..
Feb 12, 2014 4:57PM
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I think cars are only the beginning of poorly made quality goods coming out.
Feb 12, 2014 5:38PM
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Does this survey take into consideration the temperament of the owner?  I know lots of people who will complain about a supposed issue that I don't see as an issue.  Do they screen the participants in the survey with some sort of quick psychological test?


Lastly, I guarantee you the majority of Lexus owner will not admit his/her car has an issue simply because of vanity.   

Feb 12, 2014 6:17PM
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GOT A 2005 DODGE RAM 1500 WITH 140,000 MILES. TO THIS DATE ALL I'VE HAD TO DO TO THE TRUCK IS REPLACE A WATER PUMP, AND DO THE MAINTANCE ON IT EVERY SIX MONTH WITHOUT FAIL I STICK MY HEAD UNDER THAT TRUCK AND GO FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER CHECKIN' IT ALL OUT. POP'S USE TO SAY YOU TAKE OF IT, IT'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU.
Feb 12, 2014 5:08PM
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well I imagine 4 cylinder machines get over worked.
Feb 12, 2014 6:20PM
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I'm a Dodge RAM 1500 guy, haven't had problems (period).  Usually trade in my ride for newer model every 5 or 6 years.  Had a recall for a bolt in drive line, but only had the work done to stay current with maintenance reports as didn't experience any problems on a 6000 mile travel trailer vacation.  Oh, and was kind of cheating on trailer load as was overweight for the truck as far as the vehicle stats show.  Don't think the jd power report is very useful, or reliable either.
Feb 12, 2014 6:56PM
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I think the reliability of cars is worse than reported.  The problem is that problems are not being reported.  My husband and I both own (owed) Nissans, an Xterra  and an Altima.  In both cases major problems happened and there was never a recall sent, or even a warning. When the problems appeared the dealership said the warranty on each vehicle for the problem had been extended.   The Xterra started vibrating at about 40mph.  An independent body shop found out  after many attempts trying to fix the vibration was  that the coolant and the transmission fluids were mixing which was causing major transmission damage. Nissan would not admit there was a problem even though the warranty was extended.  We sold the Xterra back to them!  The Altima (with only 37000 miles) would not start after driving to the store .Came out, tried to start the vehicle...nothing There was no indication anything was wrong, no  warning lights, no hesitation, no steering problems.  After trying many things from changing the battery in key,  to jumping  the car, I called a Nissan Dealership.  They asked if the dashboard was blank, except for a little key in the upper left hand corner, which it was and the key was there.  The serviceman said it was the electronic steering lock and the car will not start.  I had to have the Altima towed to the Dealership.  Again,  there was no recall, no word of warning, but Nissan had extended the warranty. The serviceman did reluctantly admitted they have seen quite a few with electronic steering lock failure.  We were never notified that the problems with either of the vehicles existed. It was nice that the warranties were extended.  But I would have had it fixed before  being stranded on a below zero day with no way to start your car for 2 hours, or  driving down the highway going 65mph and your transmission stops. I feel  Nissan not issuing a recall is their way of not admitting to the problems
Feb 12, 2014 7:01PM
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Thank your congressman / woman for the junk spare parts that get imported all because offshore companies get a tax break while small companies here pay tax .   Can you say tax loop hole .
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