- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

The quality of new vehicles has continued to improve industrywide, according to the 2009 Initial Quality Study by J.D. Power and Associates.

Quality has improved 8 percent when compared to 2008. The quality of vehicles made by domestic automakers has improved as well. New vehicles sold by Chrysler, Ford and GM improved in initial quality by an average of 10 percent from last year. Ford vehicles improved by 7 percent; GM and Chrysler vehicles by 11 percent.

The study, which grades automakers on the number of problems per 100 vehicles (pp 100), found that the industry average this year on all vehicles was 108pp 100. This year’s study includes responses from 80,000 people who bought a 2009 model-year vehicle and were asked whether they had any of 228 possible problems. Problems include defects and malfunctions, as well as design issues.

This year’s study finds that initial quality for newly launched and redesigned models improved from 128pp 100 in 2008 to 114pp 100 this year, according to David Sargent, vice-president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.

This improvement is important since there is a strong correlation between a good launch in the Initial Quality Study, which looks at “things gone wrong” after 90 days of ownership, and how well that vehicle performs three years later in the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), Mr. Sargent said.

Vehicles that launched with better-than-average IQS scores in 2006 had 15 percent fewer problems than average in the 2009 VDS study, with examples that include the Ford Fusion, Cadillac DTS, Lincoln Zephyr, Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Azera.

Conversely, vehicles that launched with below-average IQS scores in 2006 had 17 percent more problems than average in the 2009 VDS study, with examples that include the Audi A3, Jeep Commander, Mazda5, and Hummer H3.

Although, typically, all-new models have launched with below-average levels of initial quality, several all-new 2009 models performed considerably better than their respective segment averages. They are the Hyundai Genesis, Kia Borrego, Toyota Venza and Volkswagen CC.

Many redesigned models in 2009 also showed notable improvement from the previous generation, particularly the Acura TL, Ford F-150, Honda Pilot and Nissan Z.

In addition to ranking automakers by brand, J.D. Power also names the top three models in each of 10 car segments and eight of what it calls “truck and multi-activity vehicle” segments.

Toyota Motor Corp. received awards for ranking the highest in 10 of those segments, the most of any automaker in the 2009 study. It got five awards for Lexus models (IS, GS, GX, LS and LX), four for Toyota models (4Runner, in a tie; Sienna; Tundra, in a tie; and Yaris), and one for the Scion tC.

Ford Motor Co. received four awards (Ford Edge, in a tie; F-150, in a tie; Mustang and Mercury Sable).

Nissan got two (Altima and 370Z), as did Honda (CR-V, in a tie; and Ridgeline) and General Motors (Chevy TrailBlazer, in a tie; and GMC Yukon).

Top winners in one segment are the Chrysler PT Cruiser (in a tie) and the Hyundai Elantra.

Vehicles that are one of the top three in a segment this year and have been consistently in the top three going back to 2003 are the Honda Civic and CR-V; Ford Mustang and Ranger; Lexus LS, GX and RX; Chevrolet Malibu and Tahoe; and the Toyota 4Runner.

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