Lexus is the most dependable car brand for the fourth consecutive year in rankings that increasingly hinge on high-tech features.
Buick, Toyota, Cadillac and Honda and Porsche, which were tied, rounded out the top five spots in the annual survey, released on Wednesday by the consulting firm JD Power. The survey asked original owners of vehicles from the 2012 model year about problems experienced in the last year.
Lexus owners reported 89 problems per 100 vehicles; the industry average was 147 problems. Fiat was the worst performing brand, with 273 problems per 100 vehicles. Land Rover, Jeep, Mini and Dodge rounded out the bottom five performers.
The top two complaints were technical ones: inability to pair phones to the car and trouble with voice recognition systems, which often misunderstood drivers’ commands. That’s a change from past years, when design problems like wind noise or mechanical issues like squeaky brakes topped the list.
JD Power spokesman John Tews said it’s difficult to compare the results to prior years, since JD Power changed this year’s survey to include more specific questions about technology. But it’s clear that high-tech features and owners’ expectations about how they will perform are increasingly important to overall perceptions of quality.
JD Power said 15 per cent of respondents avoided a model because it lacked new technology, up from 4 per cent in last year’s survey.
“Owners clearly want the latest technology in their vehicles, and they don’t hesitate to express their disapproval when it doesn’t work,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of US automotive at JD Power.
Wind noise was the third most reported problem on this year’s list, followed by hesitating automatic transmissions and excessive road noise.
The rankings are important to automakers, since unhappy customers are more likely to shop other brands when they buy their next vehicle. JD Power said 56 per cent of owners who reported no problems with their vehicles said they “definitely will” purchase the same brand next time.
In rankings of individual vehicles, General Motors Co and Toyota Motor Corp tied with seven segment winners each. GM’s Chevrolet Malibu was the most dependable mid size car, while the Toyota Corolla was the highest ranked small car.
More than 34,000 vehicle owners were surveyed for the study in November and December. JD Power has been conducting the dependability study since 1989.