Auto Service World
News   June 6, 2008   by Auto Service World

J.D. Power Releases Initial Quality Report

Initial quality in the automotive industry has improved significantly in 2008, with substantial gains demonstrated by nearly three-fourths of the 36 ranked nameplates, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Initial Quality Studyreleased today.
Overall quality improves to 118 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2008, down from 125 PP100 in 2007.
“Due to some strong new-vehicle launches, in addition to a continued reduction in the level of defects and malfunctions, overall quality improves by 6 percent in 2008, compared with 2007,” said David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.
“This gain is driven not only by strong advances from many of the high-volume brands such as Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, but also by very significant improvements by many other automakers.
“This industry-wide improvement is a testament to the effort that automakers are putting into listening to the voice of the customer, and the hard work they have undertaken to integrate that feedback to design, engineer and manufacture better-quality vehicles.
“From working closely with the industry, we see the importance that is placed on initial quality. Vehicle manufacturers and consumers alike are reaping the rewards of this effort.”
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 vehicle 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 durability, which can significantly impact consumer purchase decisions.
The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories — quality of design and defects and malfunctions.
The study finds that 86 percent of the overall improvement is due to advances in eliminating defects and malfunctions.
Minimizing design problems remains a major challenge for the industry, particularly since new technology, such as navigation and entertainment devices, is becoming increasingly common in today’s new vehicles.
“As consumer demand for new and more advanced wireless communication, navigation and audio technology continues to grow, manufacturers face challenges related to how well these systems are integrated into their vehicles,” said Sargent.
“In particular, issues with difficult-to-use audio and entertainment controls and voice command recognition failure are among the top ten problems most frequently reported by customers.
“Since hands-free communication for drivers will become a mandate in more and more areas throughout the U.S., this will need to be an area of continued focus for automakers.”
The study also finds that new-vehicle sales patterns in 2008 have shifted away from the largest models and toward smaller models.
“This shift in sales preferences among new-vehicle buyers is in part a response to rapidly increasing fuel prices,” said Sargent.
“The good news for consumers in this difficult environment is that they can downsize with confidence, as there are many models with high initial quality in the smaller-vehicle segments. “J.D. Power and Associates forecasts that 28 new compact-vehicle models will launch by 2010, and it will be particularly important for manufacturers to ensure high initial quality in these launches.”

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