Toyota Dominates Quality Rankings

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The Japanese giant was the clear winner in the latest J.D. Power survey. Here are the full results.

If you want to know what it's like to own a vehicle, ask someone with one parked in his driveway.

That's just what J.D. Power and Associates did. On Tuesday, the Westlake Village, Calif., company released its annual Initial Quality Study, in which it surveyed more than 62,000 vehicle owners to see which cars and trucks had the fewest problems during the first 90 days of ownership.

The results? If you're looking for a problem-free ride, you can't go wrong with a Toyota (TM). The Japanese auto maker earned top honors in 10 of the 18 model segments. Its Lexus SC 430 came in as the highest-ranking model overall for the second year in a row, with just 54 problems per 100 vehicles. Other Toyotas earning segment awards include the Toyota Prius (compact car), Scion tC (sporty car) and Toyota RAV4 (entry SUV).

American auto makers also made a strong showing. General Motors (GM) came in second with five top medal awards, including those for the Chevrolet Malibu/Mailbu Maxx (entry midsize car), Buick Century (premium midsize car) and Chevrolet Suburban (full-sized SUV). Ford (F) captured two model awards for the Ford Explorer Sport Trac (midsize pickup) and the popular Ford F-150 LD (full-size pickup).

The survey also showed a number of vehicles that made big improvements in quality. GM's Hummer, for example, reduced its number of problems per 100 vehicles by some 36%. Since its debut in the 2003 survey, Hummer has reduced its owner reported complaints by 115 problems per 100 vehicles, from 225 problems per 100 vehicles to 110 problems per 100 vehicles.

"Hummer looked and saw where the problems were and they fixed them," says John Tews, a spokesman for J.D. Power and Associates.



Nissan (NSANY) also made some marked improvements. Its Nissan Quest was the second-most-improved model, recording an impressive 104-per-100-vehicles improvement, from 243 problems per 100 vehicles to 139 problems per 100 vehicles. Other models showing notably high quality include Kia Spectra (64-per-100-vehicles improvement), the Hummer H2 (63-per-100-vehicles improvement) and the Scion xA (62-per-100-vehicles improvement).

Compared with 2004, manufacturers demonstrated improvement in half of the 135 problem symptoms included in the study. Among the nine problem categories surveyed, ride/handling/braking and exterior problems continue to cause the greatest challenge to manufacturers, according to the study. Transmissions cause the fewest.

Overall, the automotive industry improved slightly only over last year, says J.D. Power and Associates' Tews. After showing an 11% quality improvement from 2003 to 2004, the industry average for 2005 has improved only one per 100 vehicles for an industry average of 118 per 100 vehicles.

Not planning on shopping for a new car until the 2006 models come in? This survey could still come in handy. Quality tends to remain consistent among vehicles from one model year to the next, unless there is a major redesign or overhaul, says Tews.