- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Thinking about selling your 1998-model-year car and wondering just where to set the price? Thinking about buying a new or a used truck but wondering which manufacturers have the best reliability so that you will have the fewest problems?
No matter what your situation, a recent survey of how well 1998-model-year cars and trucks have held up for the past five years could provide some helpful information.
The survey, which has been done for the past 13 years, is the 2002 Vehicle Dependability Index Study by J. D. Power and Associates, a market research firm based in Westlake Village, Calif. It is based on the responses of more than 30,000 original owners of 4-to-5-year-old vehicles, in this case the 1998 model year, who were asked about problems with their vehicles.
The survey covers 137 problems and measures those problems at a critical stage, a time when many owners are considering selling their vehicles and buying new ones. The information can be helpful to consumers because people looking to buy used cars are generally willing to spend more on a vehicle that has a reputation for reliability, according to J.D. Power research. In addition, more than one-half of new-vehicle buyers say that long-term durability is an important factor in the vehicle they choose.
"While many manufacturers focus on initial quality or quality in the first one or two years of ownership a real economic impact is felt by owners after four to five years of ownership," said Brian Walters, director of product research at J. D. Power.
Eight of the 15 most reliable brands are Japanese, according to the survey. Those eight are: Lexus, (which ranked the highest for the eighth consecutive year) Infiniti, Acura, Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan and Mazda. Four of the 15 most reliable brands are domestic: Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln and Mercury and three are European: Porsche, Jaguar and BMW.
Some significant improvements have been made by the U.S. automakers, but they will have to keep at it to catch the best of the Japanese, Walters said.
J.D. Power figures its rankings by the number of problems per 100 vehicles. The lower the scores, the better the reliability. Lexus had the fewest number of problems reported, with 159 problems per 100 vehicles.
This means that owners had an average of 1.59 problems per vehicle. The industry average was 355 problems per 100 vehicles, which translates to 3.55 problems per vehicle.
The top 10 problems reported by owners in descending order:
Brakes are noisy.
Wind noise.
Uneven wearing tires.
Brakes vibrate/shudder.
Vehicle pulls.
Instrument panel/dash.
Air conditioner not cold enough.
Seatbelt doesn't retract.
Windows fog up a lot.
Molding loose/fell off.
Here is how the most reliable automakers ranked in order, along with the number of problems per 100 vehicles: Lexus (159), Infiniti (194), Acura (228), Honda (251), Toyota (276), Porsche (278), Buick (279), Cadillac (280), Jaguar (280), BMW (281), Lincoln (282), Mercury (287), Subaru (314), Nissan (321) and Mazda (337).
Although J. D. Power does not release scores for companies below the average, Automotive News the industry's weekly newspaper published the entire survey list, citing sources.
According to Automotive News these are the automakers that fell below the industry average of 355 problems per 100 vehicles: Mercedes-Benz (364), Ford (364), Saturn (365), Saab (373), Oldsmobile (376), Pontiac (389), Audi (392), Chrysler (393), Chevrolet (393), Volvo (402), Suzuki (405), Dodge (410), GMC (415), Plymouth (422), Jeep (449), Hyundai (449) Mitsubishi (461), Volkswagen (489), Isuzu (500), Land Rover (585) and Kia (709).

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