Westlake Village, CA — As the U.S. automotive industry continues to recover, vehicle manufacturers post the strongest improvement in initial quality since 2009 and are producing higher-quality vehicles than ever before, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS) released today.

  • Lexus Is the Highest-Ranked Nameplate fora Second Consecutive Year
  • Toyota Motor Corporation Receives Five Model-Level Awards
  • General Motors Company and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. Garner Four Awards Each

Overall initial quality for the industry improves by 5 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) to average 102 PP100 in 2012—an improvement of 5 percent from 2011.  There are year-over-year gains in most areas of initial quality, with one notable exception—audio, entertainment, and navigation problems have increased by 8 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 introduce increasingly sophisticated multimedia systems designed to enhance the ownership experience, owners more frequently cite these systems as a source of quality problems. For the first time in the 26-year history of the study, owners report more problems related to audio, entertainment, and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area.  This is driven in part by a rapid increase in the fitment of new technology, such as voice recognition on mainstream models.

“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.”

Specifically, the number of owner-reported problems with factory-installed hands-free communication devices has increased 137 percent during the past four years. In fact, hands-free devices not recognizing commands has become the most-often-reported problem in the industry.

“As smartphones become ubiquitous in the lives of consumers and are ever-more sophisticated, expectations about the complementary technologies being offered in new models will only get higher,” said Sargent. “Automakers and suppliers are working hard to meet those expectations with systems intended to make the driving experience safer, more convenient and more entertaining. However, the most innovative technology in the world will quickly create dissatisfaction if owners can’t get it to work.”

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Of the 34 brands ranked in the 2012 IQS, 26 have improved from 2011, five have declined, one scores the same as in 2011 and two were not included in the 2011 study.
  • Of the 185 models ranked in both the 2012 and 2011 IQS, 65 percent have improved.
  • The average quality of all-new or redesigned models improves 12 percent compared with 2011, with eleven all-new or redesigned models performing better than their segment average.

The Initial Quality Study, now in its 26th year, serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study is used extensively by manufacturers worldwide to help them design and build better models and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions. Initial quality has been shown throughout the years to be an excellent initial indicator of long-term durability, which directly impacts consumer purchase decisions. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories: design-related problems and defects and malfunctions. Full results are on the next page.

2012 IQS Ranking Highlights
Lexus is the highest-ranked nameplate in the industry for a second consecutive year, averaging 73 PP100. With 75 PP100 each, Jaguar and Porsche follow Lexus in a tie to rank second. Jaguar posts the largest improvement in the study—reducing problems by 39 PP100 and vaulting from the 20th rank position in 2011. Cadillac (80 PP100) and Honda (83 PP100) round out the top five rank positions.

Among the 21 model-level segment awards, Ford and Lexus receive three each. Ford earns awards for the Expedition, Mustang and Taurus, and Lexus garners awards for the ES 350, LS and RX. Receiving two segment awards each are Infiniti (EX-Series, M-Series); Nissan (Frontier, Quest); and Toyota (Corolla, Yaris). The Porsche 911 ranks highest in the premium sporty segment and achieves 44 PP100, the lowest PP100 score since the study was redesigned in 2006.

Also receiving segment awards are the Buick Enclave; Cadillac Escalade; Chevrolet Malibu; GMC Sierra LD; Honda CR-V; Kia Soul; Mazda MX-5 Miata; and Volvo C70.

“While in past years a handful of brands tended to collect numerous segment awards, 14 different brands receive segment awards in 2012—this is only the second time in the history of the study that so many different brands achieved award status,” said Sargent. “This is a positive indication of how widespread high quality is among automakers, with most brands producing a number of models with exceptional quality levels.”

2012 Nameplate IQS Ranking
Problems per 100 (PP100) Vehicles
Lexus 73
Jaguar 75
Porsche 75
Cadillac 80
Honda 83
Acura 84
Infiniti 84
Toyota 88
Mercedes-Benz 96
BMW 97
Mazda 97
GMC 99
Nissan 99
Ram 99
Chevrolet 100
Industry Average 102
Audi 105
Buick 106
Hyundai 107
Kia 107
Lincoln 107
Volvo 108
Subaru 109
Jeep 110
Suzuki 115
Chrysler 116
Scion 117
Ford 118
Land Rover 119
Dodge 124
Mitsubishi 124
Volkswagen 124
MINI 139
Fiat 151
smart 151

Top Three Models per Segment
Car Segments

Sub-Compact Car
Highest Ranked: Toyota
Honda Fit

Compact Car
Highest Ranked: Toyota
Toyota Prius
Honda Civic

Compact Sporty Car
Highest Ranked
: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Volkswagen Eos
Scion tC

Compact Premium Sporty Car*
Highest Ranked:
Volvo C70
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet/Coupe

Entry Premium Car
Highest Ranked:
Lexus ES 350
Acura TL
Lincoln MKZ

Midsize Premium Car
Highest Ranked:
Infiniti M-Series
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan/Wagon

Midsize Sporty Car *
Highest Ranked: Ford Mustang
Dodge Challenger

Large Premium Car
Highest Ranked: Lexus LS
Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Porsche Panamera

Midsize Car
Highest Ranked:
Chevrolet Malibu
Ford Fusion (tie)
Honda Accord (tie)

Large Car
Highest Ranked:
Ford Taurus
Toyota Avalon
Chrysler 300 Series

Premium Sporty*
Highest Ranked:
Porsche 911
BMW 6 Series

Top Three Models per Segment
Truck/Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV) Segments

Compact Crossover SUV
Highest Ranked: Honda CR-V
Toyota RAV4
Toyota FJ Cruiser

Compact MPV*
Highest Ranked:
Kia Soul
Toyota Prius v

Entry Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked:
Infiniti EX-Series
Acura RDX
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class

Midsize Crossover SUV
Highest Ranked:
Buick Enclave
Honda Crosstour
Honda Pilot (tie)
Jeep Grand Cherokee (tie)
Nissan Murano (tie)
Toyota Highlander (tie)

Large Crossover SUV
Highest Ranked:
Ford Expedition
GMC Yukon
Chevrolet Tahoe

Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked:
Lexus RX
Infiniti FX-Series
Cadillac SRX

Large Premium Crossover/SUV
Highest Ranked:
Cadillac Escalade
Infiniti QX56
Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Large Pickup
Highest Ranked:
GMC Sierra LD
Chevrolet Silverado HD
Chevrolet Avalanche (tie)
Nissan Titan (tie)

Midsize Pickup*
Highest Ranked:
Nissan Frontier
Honda Ridgeline

Highest Ranked:
Nissan Quest
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Sienna

*No other model in this segment performs above or equal to the segment average.

Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS)