The number of problems experienced by new-vehicle owners has increased from the previous year, as automakers continued to be challenged when introducing sophisticated technologies in new vehicles, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study SM (IQS) released in July.
The study, now in its 28th year, examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.
The study finds that overall initial quality averages 116 PP100, a 3 percent increase in problems from 113 PP100 in 2013. This year’s increase in problems follows a similar increase found in the J.D. Power U.S. 2014 Vehicle Dependability study released in February, which measures problems experienced after three years of ownership.
The study identifies two primary causes of the increased problem levels in 2014. First, newly launched vehicles (those that are completely new to the market or have undergone major redesigns) continue to be more problematic than carryover vehicles (those that did not undergo any significant changes). On average, newly launched vehicles experience 128 PP100, compared with 113 PP100 for carryover vehicles. The increase in problems among all-new vehicles is found mainly in the areas of voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing and audio systems.
“Automakers are trying to give consumers the new features and technology they want without introducing additional quality problems into their vehicles,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “However, almost all automakers are struggling to do this flawlessly with some consumers indicating that the technology is hard to understand, difficult to use, or simply does not always work as designed.”
Some regions experienced increases in problem types associated with harsh weather. Consumers in the South and West regions of the country (USA) report the same level of problems as in 2013 (114 PP100). In contrast, consumers in the Northeast and Midwest regions report 117 PP100 in 2014, compared with 112 PP100 in 2013. Most of this increase is found in the heating/ventilation/air conditioning, exterior and engine/transmission categories, three areas in which harsh weather conditions have an adverse effect on vehicles.
“Automakers test vehicles in extreme conditions to ensure they function properly,” said Sargent. “However, it is impossible to completely negate the effects of severe weather. Heating and ventilation systems have more work to do, engines and transmissions aren’t as smooth when cold, and exterior moldings and paint all take some punishment. Consumers generally understand this but still report problems when their vehicle does not wholly live up to their expectations.”
The study also finds that the fewer problems owners experience with their vehicle, the greater their loyalty to the brand. Combined data from previous years’ IQS results and the Power Information Network® (PIN) from J.D. Power show that 57 percent of owners who reported no problems stayed with the same brand when they purchased their next new vehicle. Brand loyalty slips to 53 percent among owners who reported just a single problem and to only 48 percent among owners who reported two or more problems.
“Even problems experienced in the first 90 days correlate strongly with ultimate repurchase behavior,” said Sargent. “These early problems can set the tone for the entire ownership period and still have an effect years later when consumers replace their vehicle.”
For a second consecutive year, Porsche ranks highest in initial quality among all nameplates, with a score of 74 PP100, (Porsche 911, Porsche Boxster and Porsche Panamera). Following Porsche in the rankings are Jaguar (87 PP100), Lexus (92 PP100) and Hyundai (94 PP100).
The 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study was based on responses from more than 86,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 model year vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 233 question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and drive product improvement. The study was fielded between February and May 2014.