The widely watched report card says owners of 3-year-old vehicles (2011 models) reported 6% more troubles than owners of 3-year-old vehicles (2010 models) did last year — 133 problems per 100 2011 vehicles ,vs. 126 for 2010s in last year's survey. Power says that reverses steadily improving industry scores since the 1998 study.
Brand rankings and a list of category winners follow this story.
Automakers are striving to convince buyers that quality is continuing to rise — a hard sell if dependability scores continue to get worse.
A Chevrolet tag line asserts that its trucks are the "longest-lasting, most-dependable." VW not only touted 100,000 — and 200,000 miles — in a Super Bowl ad, but also claims to have more vehicles still in service than any other maker.
Such claims will begin to seem hollow if the latest Power VDS is not a hiccup, but the start of annually declining dependability — and that seems quite possible.
Problems that showed up in the 2014 VDS suggest "a continuing challenge" for car companies in maintaining quality as vehicles age, said David Sargent, Power's global automotive vice president. "Some of the changes that automakers implemented for the 2011 model year have led to a noticeable increase in problems reported," he said.
Biggest contributor: new engines and transmissions accounted for nearly 6 of the 7 additional problems per 100 vehicles in this year's study. "The decline in quality is particularity acute for vehicles with four-cylinder engines," Power reports.
The move to smaller engines has taken off in the past few years, with many more vehicles with a four as the base, or now the only available engine. The industry shift is being made to boost fue! l economy to meet federal regulations tightening to an average 54.5 mpg in 2026. But, says Power, it means automakers have saddled drivers with "engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power."
Trouble-free new cars and trucks are key for repeat sales. Power data show that 56% of owners who reported no problems stayed with the same brand next time. And shoppers are much more likely to avoid models and brands with low dependability rankings, Power data show.
The VDS is based on responses from more than 41,000 original owners of 3-year old vehicles. It is a companion to Power's annual Initial Quality Study, or IQS, that measures problems new vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership.
The VDS offers overall brand lineup scores — Lexus was by far the best — and also lists best individual models by vehicle type. General Motors was segment champ, with eight winners. Toyota won seven.
Brand scores (problems per 100 vehicles for 2011 models; lower is better):
Lexus (68)Mercedes-Benz (104)Cadillac (107)Acura (109)Buick (112)Honda (114)Lincoln (114)Toyota (114)Porsche (125)Infiniti (128)BMW (130)Subaru (131)Chevrolet (132)Jaguar (132)Mazda (132)GMC (133)INDUSTRY AVERAGE (133)Ford (140)Nissan (142)Audi (151)Kia (151)Volvo (152)Scion (153)Chrysler (155)Volkswagen (158)Ram (165)Mitsubishi (166)Hyundai (169)Jeep (178)Land Rover (179)Dodge (181)Mini (185)
Segment winners (top three models in each category, starting with best):
Honda FitKia RioNissan Versa
Chevrolet VoltToyota CorollaHonda Civic
Premium compact car
Lexus ESLexus ISLincoln MKZ
Sporty compact car
Mini Cooper(No others scored high enough to include.)
Toyota CamryBuick LaCrosseHonda Accord
Sporty midsize car
Chevrolet Camaro(No others high enough to include)
Premium midsize car
Lexus GSMercedes-Benz E-classLincoln MKS
Buick LucerneToyota AvalonFord Taurus
Premi! um large car
(tie) Cadillac DTS, Lexus LS
Subcompact crossover SUV
Honda ElementJeep PatriotKia Sportage
Compact crossover SUV
Honda CR-VToyota FJ CruiserToyota RAV4
Premium compact crossover SUV
Acura RDXMercedes-Benz GLK(No others high enough to include)
Midsize crossover SUV
Honda CrosstourToyota 4RunnerNissan Murano
Premium midsize crossover SUV
Lexus RXLexus GX(tie) Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz M-class
GMC YukonChevrolet TahoeToyota Sequoia
Premium large SUV
Cadillac EscaladeMercedes-Benz GL
Compact multi-purpose vehicle
Scion xBKia Soul(No others high enough to include)
Honda RidgelineFord RangerGMC Canyon
Toyota Sienna(No others high enough to include)
Full-size pickup, standard duty
GMC SierraToyota TundraChevrolet Avalanche
Full-size pickup, heavy duty
GMC Sierra HDChevrolet Silverado HD(No others high enough to include)