The results of J.D. Power and Associates' annual Initial Quality Study (IQS) for new vehicles, released today at an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit, saw some familiar names at the top of the charts, but some surprises as well.
Porsche was the highest-ranking nameplate in the study, with an average score of 80 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). GMC ranked second (90 PP100), followed by Lexus (94 PP100), Infiniti (95 PP100) and Chevrolet (97 PP100).
Neither GMC nor Chevrolet have ever finished in the top five before and General Motors had the best overall score of any corporation in the study for the first time ever.
Among the 26 model-level segment awards, Chevrolet claimed five, while Honda, Kia, Mazda and Porsche each earned two.
Honda received awards for the Civic and CR-V; Kia for the Soul and Sportage (tie); Mazda for the Mazda2 and MX-5 Miata; and Porsche for the Boxster and 911.
Other segment awards went to: Acura TL; Buick Encore (tie); Cadillac Escalade; Chrysler Town & Country; Ford Mustang (tie); GMC Sierra LD (tie); Hyundai Genesis sedan; Infiniti FX; Mercedes-Benz GLK Class; Nissan Murano; smart fortwo; and Toyota Camry.
The Lexus LS was the highest-ranking individual model with a score of just 59 PP100.
Overall initial quality scores for all models averaged 113 problems PP100. That figure can't be compared to the scores from previous years because the Initial Quality Study was redesigned for 2013, to consider the impact of some new technologies and delete reference to others.
Dissatisfaction with connectivity features
The study found that many of the problems owners reported with their vehicle related to the driver-machine interface, which includes voice recognition or hands-free technology, Bluetooth pairing for mobile phones, and navigation systems, among others.
"The majority of owners don’t experience problems, but those who do are frustrated. That’s understandable, especially when owners often keep their new vehicle for five years or more," he added.
According to Sargent, some of these problems might be mitigated at the time of purchase if the salesperson better explained how to use the technology, while others may be remedied with software changes.
But features that are difficult for owners to operate, hard to understand, or inconveniently located in the vehicle likely will remain a problem for the life of the vehicle.
Ford has been particularly burned by that situation, ranking 27th of 33 brands in both 2012 and 2013, primarily because of dissatisfaction with its pioneering Sync and MyFordTouch systems. Earlier this week, the company announced that it would add more conventional buttons and knobs to control the systems in the future.
Canadian plants score well
The highest-ranking assembly plant in the Americas, earning Platinum award status, was Toyota's Camry plant in Lafayette, Indiana. Plant awards are based solely on average levels of defects and malfunctions and exclude design-related problems.
And Honda's Alliston, Ontario plant, which builds the Acura MDX and ZDX and Honda Civic and CR-V, won a Bronze award.
The 2013 U.S. Initial Quality Study was based on responses to a 233-point questionnaire from more than 83,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2013 model-year cars, trucks and multi-purpose vehicles, in the U.S., who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.
The study was conducted between February and May 2013.