August 10, 2006

Dependability gap narrows between luxury and higher-volume brands, J.D. Power says

Westlake Village, California – The gap in long-term quality between luxury and non-luxury brands has been cut in half during the past four years, according to a study by J.D. Power and Associates.

The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of 2003 model-year vehicles, finds that there is an ever-smaller gap in reported problems between luxury and higher-volume brands, average 15 problems-per-100 (PP100), down from 31 PP100 in 2003. Quality improvements with non-luxury brands are primarily in two categories: ride/handling/braking, and engine/transmission.

While Lexus is the top-ranking brand in vehicle dependability for a 12th consecutive year, and Cadillac ranks fourth, they are joined by second-place Mercury (a brand no longer sold in Canada), third-place Buick, and fifth-ranked Toyota.

“The industry continues to make improvements in long-term vehicle quality, and not just among luxury makes that benefit from smaller production volumes on the assembly line,” said Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis for J.D. Power and Associates. “Many high-volume, mass-marketed brands have acquired a foundation of quality products from which to challenge the normally strong performances of the luxury brands. What this means for consumers is that they don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get a high-quality used vehicle, and vehicles with high long-term dependability ratings retain more of their original value than brands with lower dependability ratings. This pays off for the consumer when it’s time to trade in their vehicle.”

Lexus models lead in four segments: GS 300/GS 430 (midsize premium), LS 430 (large premium), SC 430 (premium sporty) and GX 470 (midsize premium MAV, or multi-activity vehicle). Four Toyota models also lead their segments: Echo (sub-compact), RAV4 (compact MAV), Highlander (midsize MAV) and Tundra (large pickup). Honda ranks highest in three segments: Civic (compact), S2000 (compact premium sporty) and Odyssey (van).

Mini and Kia are the most improved brands in the study, although both continue to rank below the industry average. Mini made a 27 per cent year-over-year improvement; Kia, at 22 per cent better than 2005, has improved twice as much as any other brand in the past three years. The study is based on responses from 47,620 original owners of 2003 model-year vehicles.

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