J.D. Power released its 2017 Vehicle Dependability Study this week and the results aren’t all that surprising: Lexus and Porsche tied for the top spot, with Hyundai accomplishing the most significant year-over-year gain.
The study is updated annually and represents an important measuring stick for long-term quality. This year’s analysis looked at 2014 model-year vehicles owned by original owners, tracking problems experienced over the past 12 months. Overall vehicle dependability is factored by counting the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), with 177 specific problems gathered in eight major vehicle categories. The lower the score, the higher the quality rating.
Porsche and Lexus Garner Top Honors
Lexus and Porsche tied for top honors, with scores of PP110. Thirty-one automotive brands were tracked with the industry average coming in at PP156. Seventeen brands beat the average, while the remaining 14 fell below average.
Although vehicle dependability can be an important factor in consumer purchase decisions, it doesn’t always correlate with sales.
For instance, in recent years the Jeep brand has sustained record growth, but with a score of PP209, only Fiat at PP298 fared worse. Notably, all five major Fiat Chrysler brands (Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Fiat) tracked by J.D. Power finished below the industry average. Alfa Romeo sales numbers were too small to include.
Hyundai on the Rise
The Hyundai brand made the most significant improvement, rising from PP158 last year to PP133 this year. Hyundai leaped 13 spots to the sixth position for its highest score ever.
Toyota Takes 10 of 18 Segments
In all, 18 vehicle segments were counted in this year’s dependability study, with J.D. Power identifying the top three models in each class. Toyota Motor Corporation (inclusive of Toyota and Lexus) finished on top in 10 of the 18 categories, marking the first time an automaker ever won so many awards. These recipients are the Lexus ES, GS and RX, as well as the Toyota Avalon, Camry, FJ Cruiser, Prius, Prius V, Sienna and Venza. Notably, the Toyota Camry also received the lowest PP100 score across the industry.
Toyota has another advantage over other non-premium brands with higher residual values, as owners see a $750 advantage over the industry average. These higher values provide an advantage owners can claim when trading or selling their vehicles. From the manufacturer’s perspective, higher residual values make for more competitive deals for buyers, a win-win scenario Toyota has grasped.
Of the remaining eight segments, General Motors garnered four awards with the Chevrolet Camaro, Sonic, Silverado HD and Tahoe winning their respective categories. The Ford F-150, Honda Ridgeline, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and Volkswagen Tiguan were also recognized.
Technology Problems Weigh In
J.D. Power notes that for the second straight year, scores worsened as car owners grapple with new and updated technologies.
A full 22 percent of all problems are credited to issues that are often handled by a vehicle’s infotainment system (audio, communication, entertainment and navigation). Additionally, owners most frequently cited issues with Bluetooth pairing and connectivity, as well as the misinterpretation of voice commands.
Surprisingly, car batteries are now among the top ten problems listed. Owners are finding that battery failure is on the rise with 6.1 percent of the 35,186 people surveyed listing this problem. Still, this may be largely outside of the automaker’s control, as extreme heat can shorten a battery’s lifespan considerably.