Reliable rides: Best and worst
DETROIT, Michigan - JD Power and Associates' latest study, which measures problems experienced in 2012 by owners of three-year-old vehicles, found that reported problems fell by 5% to its lowest level since the consulting company began collecting data in 1989.
Porsche, Lexus, Toyota owners reported the fewest problems while Jeep, Mitsubishi, Dodge and Land Rover owners had the most. Owners reported an average of 126 problems per 100 vehicles from the 2010 model year, down from 132 in JD's 2012 survey.
VEHICLE RELIABILITY IMPROVING
Problems ranged from engine failure, electronic glitches to excessive wind noise.
New or redesigned cars and trucks in 2010 performed better than those that were unchanged from the 2009 model year. Owners of new models experienced 116 problems per 100 vehicles compared with 133 for models that weren't "new" in 2010.
The result challenges the conventional wisdom that it takes automakers one or two model years to work out glitches in new cars.
David Sargent, who leads JD Power's global automotive operations, said: "The rapid improvement each year in fundamental vehicle dependability is more than offsetting any initial glitches that all-new or redesigned models may have."
Chrysler's US Ram brand, which introduced a new heavy-duty pickup in 2010, saw one of the biggest leaps in the rankings. It rose to ninth in 2013 from 29th in 2012.
Suzuki and Mazda also jumped in the rankings while Cadillac, Audi, Volvo and Mitsubishi all dropped 11 spots.
Raffi Festekjian, director of global automotive research operations, reported that for the third consecutive year excessive wind noise was the top problem.
TOP CAR ISSUES
Noisy brakes were second and problems with chipping or fading paint were third, also for the third consecutive year.
Electronic issues are on the rise, especially in the premium segment. People reported incorrect or missing directions in navigation systems as well as issues with voice recognition software.
Voice recognition made the top ten for the first time in the survey's history.
Those problems are likely to grow as more advanced models make their way into the three-year reliability study. In JD Power's study of quality after three months of ownership in 2012, owners reported more problems with audio, entertainment and navigation systems than with any other vehicle feature.
In 2013, the study found that the Toyota Prius was the most reliable small car and the Hyundai Sonata was the most reliable mid-size vehicle.
The Toyota RAV4 was the highest-ranked small SUV and the Chevrolet Tahoe was the most reliable in the large SUV segment.
The Lexus RX midsize SUV had the fewest problems of any vehicle at 57 per 100.
Dependability rankings are important to automakers since buyers who are happy with a purchase are more likely to stick with that brand in the future.
MORE CONFIDENCE IN NEW CARS
JD Power said 54% of owners who do not experience any problems with their vehicle stay with the same brand for their next new vehicle.
That slips to 41% when owners experience three or more problems.
Sargent said the results should give buyers more confidence in older vehicles, whether they're keeping their current model or shopping for a used car.
He said vehicle dependability keeps improving, so drivers who purchase new cars in 2013 should have even more confidence in their cars' performance three years from now.
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