July 20, 2007

Toyota seat supplier ranks highest in J.D. Power survey

Westlake Village, California – Trim Masters, Inc., a joint venture between Johnson Controls Inc. and Toyota Boshoku Corporation, has ranked highest in overall automotive seat quality for a fifth consecutive year, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

The survey asks new-vehicle owners to rate the quality of their seats and seatbelts, based on whether they experienced defect/malfunction or design problems during the first 90 days of ownership. Overall scores are measured as problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles, with lower scores reflecting higher quality.

Trim Masters, Inc. ranked highest with a seat quality score of 2.8 PP100. The company supplies seat systems for the Lexus RX 350, built in Cambridge, Ontario, and the Toyota Avalon and Camry, built in Georgetown, Kentucky. The Avalon had the fewest problems, with 2.7 PP100.

Mercedes-Benz, which produces its seats in-house, was second with a score of 3.7 PP100. The E-Class sedan, which comprises 60 per cent of its model mix, had the fewest reported problems, at 0.9 PP100. TS Tech Co., Ltd. ranked third with 4.4 PP100.

The study found that, with an average of 5.3 PP100, seats supplied to Asian nameplates had the fewest customer-reported seat problems, when compared with European and domestic nameplates. Asian nameplates have improved in quality, with reported problems down from 5.6 PP100 since the 2006 study; European nameplates have also improved, from 10.1 PP100 in 2006 to 8.7 PP100 in 2007. However, domestic nameplates increased in number of problems, from 6.8 PP100 in 2006 to 7.3 PP100 in 2007. J.D. Power notes that while European nameplates experience the most seat-related problems, they also receive the highest seat satisfaction ratings.

The study also found that fold-down rear seats are the most desirable feature for new-vehicle buyers, with 82 per cent of customers wanting them in their next vehicle. The feature with the greatest difference between those who have the feature and those who want it is cooled/ventilated seats: 12 per cent of respondents currently own such seats, but 45 per cent want it in their next vehicle. The study is based on responses from 97,390 new-vehicle owners who purchased a 2007 model-year vehicle.

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