Chrysler, Ford Motor and General Motors are showing marked improvement in the quality of their new vehicles--but you're still probably better off buying a Toyota.
According to the annual Initial Quality Study released today by market-research firm J.D. Power and Associates, cars made by Detroit's Big Three have improved in quality by an average of 10% over last year, putting them ahead of the 8%-improved industry average. Toyota, however, had the strongest showing in the industry this year, with the brand seeing, on average, 101 reported problems by consumers per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership--well below the industry average of 108 problems.
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In all, Toyota earned 10 segment awards for specific models. Each segment's winners are the models with the fewest reported problems in their class.
David Sargent, the vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates, told reporters at a press event today that Detroit's improvement with its products is a good indicator for "long-term" success. "Consumers can expect the quality of new vehicles to continue to rise," he said.
Ford's Edge, F-150 and Mustang each won segment awards, as did the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Chrysler PT Cruiser, GMC Yukon and Mercury Sable.
Overall, Toyota's Lexus brand led the nameplate rankings for quality--the 12th year it has achieved such distinction in 20 years, and the first year since 2005. Porsche, Cadillac, Hyundai and Honda rounded out the top five.
Behind the Numbers
The J.D. Power Initial Quality study highlights the top vehicles in car and light-truck segments, measuring new-vehicle quality at 90 days of ownership. Information on problems experienced by consumers is gathered from more than 80,000 purchasers and lessees of 2009 model-year vehicles.
The study evaluates 228 problems distributed throughout eight categories: exterior, driving experience, features/controls/displays, audio/entertainment/navigation, seats, climate control, interior and engine/transmission. Each vehicle's performance is measured using a "problems per 100 vehicles" (PP100) system. A low PP100 score indicates better quality than a high PP100 score.
Overall, the industry average for initial quality has improved, moving from 118 problems per 100 vehicles in 2008 to 108 this year.
Standouts on the top-quality list include the Acura TL, Honda Pilot and Nissan Z, but several newly launched and redesigned models of 2009 also were surprise winners, since all-new models often lack the quality of the repeatedly updated cars that have been in the market for several years. The Hyundai Genesis, Kia Borrego, Toyota Venza and Volkswagon CC all bucked that trend, earning significantly better ratings than their segment averages.
Toyota Tops Again
Toyota's 10 segment awards were spread across its Lexus, Toyota and Scion brands. Lexus won awards for its IS, GS, GX, LS and LX models. The LX fared particularly well--it has the fewest quality problems of any vehicle, with just 52 per 100 vehicles reported.
"The LX basically sets a new standard in dependability," says Raffi Festekjian, the senior manager of product research and analysis at J.D. Power.
The MINI brand fared the worst in the study, with an average of 165 reported problems per 100 vehicles.
2009's Highest-Quality Cars
1. Toyota Yaris
2. Hyundai Elantra Sedan
3. Scion tC
4. Nissan Z
5. Lexus IS
Click here to see the full list of the Highest-Quality Cars Of 2009