This article also appears in
Subscribe now »

J.D. Power initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles. A lower score reflects higher quality.

Problems persist for vehicle owners using technology, J.D. Power study finds

Lack of voice recognition and clumsy Bluetooth pairing were cited by owners of all-new vehicles as being among the most common type of problems they experience in the first 90 days of vehicle ownership, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS).

The top five problems reported in the 2014 study matched the problems cited in J.D. Power’s 2013 IQS study. Vehicle owners’ primary concern was that voice recognition frequently doesn’t recognize or misinterprets commands. Other issues in descending order were "Bluetooth mobile phone/device frequently has pairing/connectivity issues"; "materials scuff/soil easily"; "excessive wind noise"; and "navigation system difficult to use."

“Manufacturers still struggle to launch new models while improving quality. This is confounded with the fact that new technology is also added to the new models, and in some cases, does not meet customer expectations and/or is not intuitive to operate,” Renee Stephens, Vice President of U.S. Automotive Quality at J.D. Power, explained to SAE Magazines.

Now in its 28th year, the study found Porsche, Jaguar, Lexus, Hyundai, and Toyota ranking one through five, respectively, in having the fewest problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). The overall initial quality average for the 2014 IQS is 116 PP100, versus the 113 PP100 in the 2013 study. On average, newly launched and major redesigned vehicles had 128 PP100 compared with 113 PP100 for carryover vehicles.

Between February and May 2014, more than 86,000 purchasers and lessees of 2014 model year vehicles were surveyed via an online 233-questionnaire to gauge their views after 90 days of vehicle ownership. Results of the study were revealed by the global market research company J.D. Power on June 18 at an Automotive Press Association program in Detroit.

Said Hadeer Konja, Director of Engineering Quality at the Chrysler Group, “J.D. Power updated the IQS questionnaire for the 2013MY to collect more detail on new technologies that weren’t previously addressed. The audio/entertainment/navigation and Bluetooth technologies have been a challenge for the entire industry.”

Konja noted that the Chrysler Group made updates for the 2014 model year “to improve the speed and accuracy of our systems. To improve voice recognition, we also added text prompts on the screen to suggest several types of verbal commands the driver could make.”

The 2014 Nameplate IQS Ranking had Chrysler above the industry average, Ram equal with the industry average. Dodge, Jeep, and Fiat were below the industry average.

Stephens noted that Ford Motor Co. and several other manufacturers are updating their audio entertainment and navigation systems “with Bluetooth pairing showing improvement at the industry level. This is a reflection of the rapid progression in technology as well as the engineers really using customer feedback to make their interfaces and functions more intuitive and pleasing to buyers.”

The IQS survey is one way for automakers to gauge customers’ impressions on vehicle quality.

Noted Konja: “We get a more comprehensive and timely report of defect issues from our warranty data. However, IQS also measures what J.D. Power describes as ‘design’ issues that customers do not like or find difficult to understand. Internally, we categorize that as ‘dislike’ quality, and we reference IQS for our competitive comparisons on dislike quality.”

Curt McAllister, Toyota’s Midwest Public Relations Manager, said IQS findings get an in-depth review from many internal departments. “Our product planning, engineering, and manufacturing teams are most interested in what consumers think about products. This goes hand-in-hand with our Kaizen philosophy.”

Toyota's South, Ontario, Canada (TMMC) plant received the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles that yield the fewest defects or malfunctions. Workers at TMMC produce the Lexus RX luxury crossover.

For the second consecutive year, General Motors received more vehicle segment awards for fewest problems per 100 vehicles than any other automaker. The Buick Encore, Kia Sportage, and Nissan Juke tied (111 PP100) in the small SUV segment. Chevrolet Malibu (76) topped the midsize car segment. The Chevrolet Silverado (68) led the heavy-duty pickup segment. Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon tied (93) in the large SUV segment. And the GMC Terrain (85) was best in the compact SUV segment.

Continue reading »