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US carmakers show marked improvement in auto quality


In times like this, any form of good news is reason enough for auto manufacturers to jump for joy. So when word came out that J.D. Power and Associates, a marketing and consulting company, released their annual study of vehicle quality and gave flowering remarks to Ford, GM, and Chrysler, you could imagine that these three manufacturers pumping their fists in excitement.

With word coming out from the consulting company that the three automakers have made marked improvements on the quality of their vehicles compared to last year, a collective sigh of relief could be heard coming from Detroit.

Yet despite this vote of confidence, the study also revealed that the three local brands have a lot more work to do before it can catch up to its foreign competitors.

The J.D. Power study, which measures mechanical and design problems that show up in the first 90 days of ownership, revealed that Lexus – Toyota Toyota ’s luxury brand – and Porsche, came out as the top two brands with GM’s Cadillac line bagging third place honors.

The clear-cut winner as the world’s best brand is Toyota, which, incidentally, also overtook GM as the world’s biggest automaker last year. The car giants from Japan came out on top in 10 different vehicle categories, not to mention winning the best production plant in the world for their plant in Japan that makes the Toyota Corolla and the Lexus SC 430.

Nevertheless, the improvements made by the three American brands is a welcome breath of fresh air for all of them, especially after everything that’s happened in the past year, which included fire sales, bankruptcies, and the unfathomable reality of being this close to shutting down.

The study – as well as some of the world’s foremost authorities on the auto industry – stresses that the road to recovery for the three US brands begins with the production of more high-quality cars that people can choose from.

According to Dave Sargent, VP of automotive research at J.D. Power, “there are too many cars and not enough consumers. For any vehicle that is lagging in quality, that’s a difficult position for them to be in.”

For now, it seems that the three US car brands heard the message loud and clear, as evidenced by the improved remarks vetted by the Power study. Whether or not this marks the beginning of their turn around, one thing remains clear: the three automakers still have a lot of work to do to get back to where they were in the past.

But if this Power study is any indication, it’s beginning to look that there may be a silver lining for the Detroit 3 after all.



10 comments:

Pay attention to the source of data. JD Powers is the Jerry Springer of Automotive reliabilty. They skew their results because customers can be influenced by having a buxom receptionist, flat screen tvs and a coffee bar in the dealer service waiting room. Better and more scientific data with active vehicle testing and invaluable longitudinal data is from Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

I am not personally against the 3 American giants who are having a lul of bankrupcy and getting this boost in terms of quality. But personally I must say that for the benefit of the majority, I sincerely hope consumers do current research on quality and all other aspects of vehicles before they decide to buy. Just don’t leave it up to what you heard last from the marketing pitches on TV and radio, dig into the details for yourself. Wipe out perception, promote awareness!

“A more important measure of quality is perceived quality”……Wow. Written another way would be let’s ignore any statistical data we get and just resort to believing the marketing and hearsay. I’ll be the first to say that the domestic makers in the past had quality issues, but looking at updated statistics is the only way to a valid measure. Using perceived quality as a measure is like saying “We had a very rainy season two years ago, let me grab my umbrella for today?”

I wish I could’ve been able to partake in this survey because my Cadillac experience has been completely opposite of Cadillacs overall results. My engine and transmission dilemas ALONE have been enough to rate their vehicles and customer service poorly. Not to mention all the rattles and little build quality issues that I have had. Yes, this is a brand new model and it’s supposed to expect a bug or 2, but this is ridiculous.

Problems per 100 vehicles is not the only way of measuring quality. A more important measure of quality is preceived quality and in this area Detroit vehicles are still lagging significantly behind imports. When Detroit catches up in quality as perceived by potential customers so will their lagging sales.

Why should I believe the claims of J.D. Powers any more than the weekend car reviews by the NY Times staff? Consumer’s Union painstakingly performs vehicle deconstruction to find defects and performes serious testing and carefully constructing reader surveys. The results are usually at odds with the results from all for profit companies.

So JD Power and Associates claim that The Big 3 have improved their quality. What can I say except, it is too little too late. They have sold cars with too many problems for too long. Instead of correcting their problems, they ignored them due to their own arrogance. Now GM and Chrysler are in bankruptcy, I cannot say that it is surprising nor undeserving.

Well hit this one guys! According to the study, Toyota and Lexus are still at the top. New vehicles have never been as well-built as they are now, which means it’s a great time to buy because there are also good deals everywhere. All-new models have fewer problems than before, so new vehicle quality is likely to continue to rise. While “Premium” Euro brands - Mini, Land Rover, Smart, Saab - are at the bottom of the junk pile.

Yes, that is true, on the part of European car makers, VW is developing more exact specifications, better development processes, better systems integration, better architectures and better testing. The company prepared an electronics strategy and has hired more than 500 people into the electronics group in all divisions—production, quality and engineering. But why are they not listed for this award? Except of course for Toyota making a big win over GM.

So just how does a car manufacturer go about becoming a leader in both cost and quality? I guess, maintaining development and manufacturing expertise in house is one of the keys. Like Nissan manufactures in house about 5 percent of the electronics it uses in its vehicles. That is why I am also surprised with the JD Power study, which only includes Ford, GM and Chyrsler on the list snobbing the Japanese car makers for no reason.

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