Surveys Show: New cars are built better, more dependable than ever

With the average age of vehicles in the United States at 11 years, drivers who have been holding out before buying a new or used vehicle will be happy to know that cars are higher quality and more reliable than ever. With such an aging fleet consumers thinking about replacing older vehicles will have a great chance to survey what manufacturers have to offer at the Denver Auto Show, coming up March 20-24 at the Colorado Convention Center.

J.D. Power and Associates conducts annual surveys of owner-reported vehicle problems. In a study released last month Power assessed long-term dependability of three-year-old models. It asked more than 37,000 original owners of 2010 vehicles about the problems they experienced during the past 12 months. It also tracks the differences in problems between models that were new or substantially changed and models that stayed the same from year to year (carryovers).

Overall, vehicle dependability was the best since the U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study℠ began in 1989 and also increased five percent from last year. Owners of these three-year-old vehicles reported 126 incidents per 100 vehicles, down from 132 incidents in last year’s survey. Of the 31 models for which data were collected, 21 showed improved dependability. Domestic brands improved at a slightly better rate than imports but imports still did somewhat better.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to consumers may be that for the first time all-new models had a better record than carryovers. New or substantially redesigned 2010 models averaged 116 problems per 100 vehicles, compared to 133 problems per 100 vehicles for the models that were substantially unchanged for 2010. According to Powers’ VP for Global Automotive David Sargent, “The rapid improvement in fundamental vehicle dependability each year is more than offsetting any initial glitches that all-new or redesigned models may have.”

More information about the Vehicle Dependability Study, including details about brand and segment dependability is available at

Last month’s dependability study reinforces the findings of J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study℠ (IQS) released last June. The study, in its 26th year, measures problems reported by owners of new vehicles within 90 days of purchase. It is considered by the automotive industry to be a good indicator of long-term vehicle durability. The IQS found the strongest quality improvement since 2009, and demonstrated that vehicles are continuing to get better year after year.

Overall for 2012 there was a five percent gain in new vehicle quality over 2011 based on reports from owners of 34 brands. Of those, 26 improved from 2011, five declined, one scored the same and two were not included in the 2011 study. Power ranked 185 different models, of which 65 percent improved. The average quality of all-new or redesigned models improved 12 percent compared with 2011.

The only area that didn’t show an improvement was audio/entertainment/navigation. This area is influenced in part by the rapid increase in new automotive information and entertainment technology. The technology also is more widely available in more models than ever. More than 80 percent of new-vehicle owners told Power that their new vehicle had some kind of hands-free technology. The most-often reported problem was hands-free devices that did not recognize voice commands.

“Automakers and suppliers are working hard to meet [owners’] expectations with systems intended to make the driving experience safer, more convenient and more entertaining,” Sargent said.

Lexus took 2012 top brand honors for the second straight year. Jaguar and Porsche tied for second place, with Cadillac and Honda rounding out the top five. Get more information at

More than 500 vehicles from 25 manufacturers will be on display at the Denver Auto Show, including concept vehicles. Accessories and aftermarket products will also be available. Regular admission to the Denver Auto Show is $10.00 for adults, $5.00 for children (6-12), and children under six are free.

Tim Jackson serves as CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, hosts of the annual Denver Auto Show, March 20 to 24, 2013, at the Colorado Convention Center, Denver


About timwjackson

Working every day for a better Colorado.
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