JD Power & Associates Releases its Top Initial Quality picks for 2012.
Story by Budd Stanley, photos courtesy of GM, Honda, Nissan and Ford Canada
We as automotive journalists have a job full of perks, one of which is our access to press vehicles. However, an important part of the job is to educate readers on all facets of the vehicles we test, but that’s just not possible in one short week. Important characteristics like durability, build quality and reliability usually go overlooked as we just don’t know how any particular vehicle will perform after several months or even several years of hard driving.
To find this information out, you need to talk to the customers. Thankfully, J.D Power and Associates is just such a company that commissions surveys to talk with vehicle owners about the vehicles they’ve purchased. Recently, the company released its Initial Quality Study, now in its 26th year, which serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories: design-related problems, and defects and malfunctions.
What this year’s study has shown is that the increasingly competitive state of the automotive market is bringing out the best in everyone. Overall initial quality for the industry improves by five problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) to average 102 PP100 in 2012, an improvement of five percent from 2011. Of the 34 brands ranked in the 2012 IQS, 26 have improved from 2011, while the segment awards have been divvied up between 14 different manufacturers for only the second time in history, upsetting the trend of only a handful of car makers hording all the awards.
While overall, the numbers are up, there has been a rather large issue growing in modern vehicle technology. The audio, entertainment, and navigation category problems have increased by eight percent from 2011. This continues a recent trend, as problems in this category have increased by 45 percent since 2006, while other categories have improved by 24 percent, on average. As manufacturers continue to load their vehicles with the latest and greatest technologies to help market their cutting-edge products, owners are more frequently citing these systems as a source of quality issues.
"Until recently, this type of sophisticated technology was found primarily on high-end models" said David Sargent, vice-president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, over the past few years, it has rapidly found its way into the automotive mainstream. For example, in 2012, more than 80 percent of owners indicate that their new vehicle has some form of hands-free technology."
As a result of leading the techno charge with its MyFord Touch multimedia systems, Ford was one of the few automakers to see its initial quality score decrease, though just marginally at one additional problem per 100 vehicles.
Now let’s get to the truck side of the equation, and the majority of the manufacturers that build pickups all finishing above the industry average of 102 problems reported per 100 vehicles, were Chevrolet (100), Ram (99), Nissan (99), GMC (99), Toyota (88) and Honda (83). The only other truck makers finishing well below the industry average were Suzuki (115) and of course, for the issues mentioned above, Ford (118).
With this new study, obviously, comes the rewards as well, and J.D. Power & Associates have awarded the top vehicles in 21 different vehicle segments including large and midsize pickups. And the winners are… the Nissan Frontier won, and the Honda Ridgeline was the only other pickup on the list for the midsize pickup segment. For the large pickup segment, the GMC Sierra HD took the top honours with the Chevrolet Silverado HD just behind, followed by a tie for third place between the Nissan Titan and the Chevrolet Avalanche.