J.D. Power and Associates is a name automotive companies have come to respect – and dread. Every year, the American market research firm publishes its Vehicle Dependability Study, a survey conducted with owners of vehicles that have been on the road for three years. The survey ranks brands based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), ranging from serious mechanical issues to simple computer inefficiencies.
This year, the average PP100 has been established at 156. A total of 35,186 owners of 2014 vehicles contributed to the survey.
For a sixth year in a row, Lexus ranks at the top of the list with 110 PP100. This year however, it has to share the podium with Porsche as it tied with 110 PP100 as well.
Coming in third position, up one rank from last year, is Lexus’ sister brand Toyota; the first non premium brand to appear on the list. Toyota ranked first in no less than six segments including in the compact car category with the Prius and in the compact SUV category with a blast from the past, the F.J. Cruiser.
Three Lexus models occupy the top rank in their segments, notably the Lexus ES in the compact premium car group and the Lexus RX in the midsize premium SUV category.
GM has wind in its sails with all the brands under its umbrella represented in the top ranks, starting with Chevrolet in the 8th position with 142 PP100. The only other American brand to have made it in the better half of the list is Lincoln.
The J.D. Power and Associates VDS survey doesn’t only flatter the manufacturer’s ego, it can also hurt its reputation. In the case of Italo-American brand Fiat, it has been ranked lowest on the list with close to 300 PP100 (298 to be specific), a drop of six positions. This is close to three problems experienced for every car considered. Last year, the number of problems experienced with vehicles from the brand was sitting at 171, meaning that in a span of a year (from the 2013 year-model to the 2014), the number of experienced issues almost doubled.
Infiniti ranks third from the bottom, which may come as a surprise to many as last year, it was listed in the top ranks. This year’s low ranking, however, has been associated to the poor performances of their infotainment system. The same happened to Ram that has gone from 129 PP100 up to 183.
The most recent study pointed to an increasing number of technology-related issues, which is consistent with the equally increasing number of intelligent and safety features vehicles now rely on. Infotainment and navigation systems account for 22 % of the issues experienced, an increase of 2 % over last year.
A new trend has also surfaced; since last year, 44 % more owners have experienced some form of battery failure. In fact, according to the study, “Batteries are the most frequently replaced component not related to normal wear and tear in 3-year-old vehicles at 6.1%—up 1.3 percentage points from 2016.”