American, European Most Dependable Car Brands

For a long time — 14 consecutive years — Lexus had topped the J. D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study. That run is over as American and European automakers have taken the helm as the most dependable brands in the automotive industry.

Lexus’ impressive 14-year run ended in 2009 when Buick and Jaguar tied for the top slot; last year Porsche was the most dependable brand and Lincoln was second. This year Lincoln is tops.

Lincoln is the most dependable of 34 automotive brands in the J. D. Power and Associates 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study. It is the first time ever for Lincoln to top the list in the study, the first of which was done in 1990. When it comes to individual models, the Lincoln MKZ is second in reliability only to the Porsche 911.

“Whereas in the past it was Lexus and then everybody else,” now there are a number of brands that perform well, said David Sargent, vice-president of global vehicle research at J. D. Power.

J. D. Power’s dependability study measures the problems experienced by the original owners of three-year-old vehicles. This year’s study was based on responses of almost 44,000 owners of 2008 model vehicles. The survey covers 202 different problem areas in eight major vehicle systems; one is “seats,” another is “exterior” and a third is “engine and transmission.” The rankings then are determined by the number of problems per 100 vehicles; lower numbers are better.

Lincoln had 101 problems per 100 (pp 100) vehicles. Next was Lexus with 109 pp 100, Jaguar was third with 112, Porsche was fourth with 114 and Toyota was fifth with 122.
In the bottom five were Chrysler with 202 pp 100, Dodge with 206, Land Rover with 212, Jeep with 214 and Mini with 221 was last.

This year’s industry average was 151 problems per 100 vehicles, which J. D. Power notes is the lowest problem rate since the first study was done. Fourteen brands were above that industry average and 20 were below. This was the first year the Smart carmaker made the list with the 2008 Smart Fortwo and was just below the industry average with 152 pp 100.
J. D. Power also ranks the top three vehicles for dependability in each of 20 car and truck segments from Sub-Compact Car to Large Premium Crossover/SUV.

Toyota Motor Corporation won in seven segments, more than any other automaker in this year’s study. The top vehicles in the seven segments are the Lexus RX, Scion xB, and the Toyota 4Runner, Prius, Sienna, Tacoma and Tundra.
The Ford Motor Company received four awards for the Ford Fusion and Mustang and the Lincoln MKZ and Navigator.

General Motors won in three categories with the Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS and Chevrolet Tahoe. The Honda Motor Company also won in three categories with the Acura RL and the Honda CR-V and Fit. Also winning in their segments were the BMW X3, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Mercedes-Benz CLK.

Despite continued industry improvement, the rate of improvement has slowed somewhat, Sargent said. In the last decade, the industry improvement has averaged 8 percent annually. Between 2009 and 2011 improvement averaged 6 percent.

Although automakers are doing a good job of ridding their vehicles of traditional mechanical problems, these are being replaced by other problems, such as electronic features and new safety features, Sargent said.

For the 2008 models in this year’s study, the big problem is false readings from tire pressure monitoring systems. The federal government mandated these systems and by the 2008 model year, all passenger vehicles had them. Since every single vehicle has to have this technology now, the incidence of the problem becomes greater, Sargent said. — Cheryl Jensen, Motor Matters

Manufacturer photo: The Lincoln brand is the most dependable automaker on the market according to the 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study by J. D. Power and Associates. Pictured: 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and Lincoln MKX.
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011

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