Porsche was tops and Mercedes-Benz ranked third in the 2010 initial vehicle quality survey from J.D. Power and Associates. But the overall quality of new cars and trucks sold in the United States slipped slightly this year -- for the first time since 2007 -- because of troubles at Toyota Motor Corp.
Porsche, which recently launched the four-door Panamera in the United States, was the top-ranked brand in the closely watched ranking, with 83 problems per 100 models surveyed. The Stuttgart-based sports car maker was followed by Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Ford. Honda, Hyundai, Lincoln, Infiniti and Volvo also finished above the industry average.
Mercedes rose in the ranking thanks to the successful launch of the new E class, which finished among the best mid-sized premium cars in J.D. Power's latest survey. The C class was J.D. Power's highest ranked car in the entry-premium segment while the S-class sedan and GL-class SUV also were praised. Porsche's Panamera finished behind the S class and the Lexus LS 460, which was named best large premium car in the survey.
Overall for 2010, new-vehicle quality slipped industrywide to 109 problems per 100 models from 108 in 2009. The results are based on a J.D. Power survey of 82,000 new-vehicle buyers after 90 days of ownership.
A big reason for the slight drop in industry quality was trouble at the Toyota brand, which slipped below the industry average for the first time, to 21st place, with 117 problems reported per 100 models. J.D. Power has been doing the survey for 24 years.
The publicity surrounding unintended acceleration in several Toyota models was top-of-mind for many new owners of the brand's vehicles, J.D. Power said.
"Difficult year' for Toyota
“Clearly, Toyota has endured a difficult year,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power.
Overall, Japanese brands averaged 108 problems per 100 models surveyed, a tie with U.S. domestic brands. South Korean brands averaged 111 problems and Europeans 114 problems.
BMW's Mini was the most improved brand. Overall, 18 brands improved and 15 brands declined in the survey.
The quality of new or revamped models continued to improve in 2010, led by product launches from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. In the past, new models, on average, experienced substantially more quality problems than carryover models.
But in its latest survey, J.D. Power said more than a half of all models launched during the 2010 model year performed better than their respective segment averages.
At the same time, the initial quality of carryover and refreshed models fell in 2010.
Last year, Lexus topped the survey with 84 problems per 100 models. Porsche and Lexus have led the survey for the past six years.
At the bottom of the survey, with 170 problems per 100 models, was Land Rover. Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Mini, Jaguar and Dodge also placed near the bottom.
Sargent said the industry has nailed “the oily parts” of the car and truck, with engine, transmission and chassis problems all but extinct. But new technologies such as Bluetooth, navigation and cameras continue to stymie automakers and consumers.
“The industry is still struggling to seamlessly integrate these features in a way that does not frustrate consumers,” Sargent said. “It can be anything from a voice recognition system that fails to recognize commands or a bad sensor that monitors tire pressure.”
Mercedes has top plant
Mercedes's C-class production plant in South Africa was awarded J.D. Power's highest honor for initial quality, the Platinum Award, for having the fewest problems per 100 vehicles. The factory in East London had just 28 problems put 100 vehicles.
The Stuttgart area of Germany had two factories that were honored by the J.D. Power survey. Porsche's plant in the Stuttgart suburb Zuffenhausen earned a Silver Award for having 32 problems per 100 vehicles. The factory makes the Porsche 911 and Boxster. Daimler's plant in the in Sindelfingen was awarded a Bronze Award for having 33 problems per 100 vehicles. Mercedes makes that CL CLS, E-class and S-class models in Sindelfingen.
David Phillips contributed to this report