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2010 Initial Quality Study from JD Power

Domestic brands surpass imports in initial quality for the first time in JD Power Initial Quality Study

2010 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) nameplate rankings, problems per 100 vehicles.Domestic auto brands, as a whole, have demonstrated higher initial quality than import brands for the first time, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 US Initial Quality Study (IQS) released June 17, 2010. The study has been conducted annually for the past 24 years by the Westlake Village, CA-based research company.

Overall, the industry average for initial quality is 109 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2010, increasing slightly from 108 PP100 in 2009. However, initial quality for domestic brands as a whole has improved by 4 PP100 in 2010 to an average of 108 PP100 -- slightly better than the initial quality of import brands, which averages 109 PP100 in 2010.

Substantial improvements by many domestic models -- including the Ford Focus, Ram 1500 LD and Buick Enclave -- drive the overall improvement of domestic automakers in 2010. In particular, initial quality of Ford models has improved steadily for the past nine years. In addition, as a corporation, Ford Motor Company (including Volvo) has 12 models that rank within the top three in their respective segments in 2010 -- more than any other corporation. General Motors Company has 10 models that rank within the top three in their segments.

Initial quality performance demonstrated by US brands in 2010 contrasts sharply with consumer sentiment from one year ago. According to data collected by the J.D. Power Web Intelligence Division between May 2009 and July 2009, much of the online consumer discussion about automotive quality centred around the difficulties US automakers were facing, and perceptions that these problems were largely caused by poor product quality.

"Domestic automakers have made impressive strides in steadily improving vehicle quality, particularly since 2007," said David Sargent, vice-president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates.

2010 Ram pickup truck."This year may mark a key turning point for US brands as they continue to fight the battle against lingering negative perceptions of their quality. However, there is still a long road ahead, and domestic manufacturers need to consistently prove to consumers that they can produce models with quality that equals or beats that of the import brands. Achieving quality comparability is the first half of the battle; convincing consumers -- particularly import buyers -- that they have done this is the second half."

According to J.D. Power's Web Intelligence Division, online consumer conversations about vehicle quality have recently shifted to a more concrete tone. In 2010, consumers are more often discussing quality as it applies to their own personal vehicle purchase decisions, rather than how domestic brands overall are affected by perceptions of low quality.

Initial quality of new models and major redesigns continues to improve in 2010, led by new launches from Ford, Honda, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

The all-new Honda Accord Crosstour and the redesigned Ford Mustang, Ford Taurus and Lexus GX 460 each rank highest in initial quality in their respective segments. The Ford Fusion, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Sedan and Porsche Panamera also launch with notably high initial quality levels.

2010 Ford Focus.Historically, newly launched models have incurred substantially more quality problems than carryover models, on average. However, more than one-half of all models launched during the 2010 model year perform better than their respective segment averages. Furthermore, 12 all-new and redesigned models rank within the top three in their respective segments. Meanwhile, initial quality of carryover and freshened models has declined for the 2010 model year.

The Initial Quality Study 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 vehicles and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions.

Initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term vehicle 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.

2010 IQS Ranking Highlights

Porsche leads the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 83 PP100. Following in the rankings are, respectively, Acura (which moves from 14th rank position in 2009 to second in 2010), Mercedes-Benz (which improves from sixth rank position in 2009 to third in 2010), Lexus and Ford (which moves into the top five for the first time since the inception of the study). MINI posts the largest improvement in 2010, reducing problems by 32 PP100 from 2009.

Initial quality study of vehicles from 1999 to 2010 by JD Power and Associates.Toyota's problem count increases by 16 PP100, moving it from sixth rank position in 2009 to 21st in 2010.

"Clearly, Toyota has endured a difficult year," said Sargent. "Recent consumer concerns regarding Toyota's quality are reflected in the nameplate's performance in the 2010 study. That said, Toyota's success was built on a well-deserved reputation for quality, and there is little doubt that they will do everything possible to regain that reputation."

Ford and Lexus each garner three segment awards. Ford captures awards for the Focus, Mustang and Taurus, while Lexus receives awards for the Lexus GS, GX and LS models. The Lexus LS has the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 55 PP100.

Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota receive two awards each. Chevrolet models earning awards are the Avalanche (in a tie) and the Tahoe. Honda receives awards for the Accord and the Accord Crosstour, while Toyota receives awards for the FJ Cruiser and Sienna.

Also receiving segment awards are: Acura RDX, Cadillac Escalade, GMC Sierra LD (in a tie), Hyundai Accent, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan Frontier, Scion xB and Volvo C70.

The 2010 Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 82,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2010 model-year vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 228-question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate identification of problems and to drive product improvement. The study was fielded between February 2010 and May 2010.

© Posted June 18, 2010.

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