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JD Power long term durability results

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Japanese shine, Europeans sputter, domestics surprise in J.D. Power durability study

Autoweek

By JOHN D. STOLL

The Porsche 911 took the honor of being the highest ranked premium sports car in vehicle durability. Some other European brands didn't fare so well.

When it comes to vehicle durability, nothing tells the story like good old fashioned time. And time seems to be on the side of Japan’s top-selling imports in the United States.

J.D. Power and Associates, best known for its Initial Quality Study released in May, has released its annual Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures problems reported by original owners of 2000 model year vehicles. Unlike the IQS, which measures customer satisfaction based on things gone wrong over the first 90 days of ownership, the VDS gauges the average long term reliability of vehicles. Both studies monitor quality by charting problems experienced per 100 vehicles on the road; the firm asked more than 55,000 buyers to report on 147 specific areas where there might be a quality problem.

At the top of the heap for the ninth straight year is Lexus, followed by Infiniti and Buick in individual nameplate rankings. Lexus vehicles have snapped, sputtered or exhibited some other quality snafu an average 163 times per 100 vehicles made in the 2000 model year. Infiniti came in at 174 problems and Buick at 179. The industry average is 273 problems per 100 vehicles.

J.D. Power officials say Toyota as an overall company (196 problems per 100)—including Lexus—put on the best performance through approximately four years of wear. Fellow Japanese Honda (215)—including Acura—and Nissan (258)—including Infiniti— also ranked among the top four overall.

While Japan won the war, the General put on quite a strong showing. Cadillac, Saab, GMC, Chevrolet, Saturn and GM affiliate Subaru joined Buick in posting above average scores, with No. 3 Buick moving up four spots from its former ranking. Oldsmobile and Pontiac came in slightly below average, while GM affiliates Suzuki and Isuzu bombed the survey with between 368 and 403 problems per 100 vehicles, depending on the model.

Joe Ivers of J.D. Power says that the strong performance by GM and its fellow domestic makers goes against standard perceptions of vehicle durability. “Conventional wisdom,” he suggests, “said that dependability was the property of the Japanese and Europeans. While that’s still true for automakers like Toyota and Honda, it’s no longer the case for many of the Europeans.”

Ivers lauds brands like Porsche, Saab, BMW and Jaguar for being above average, but points to many other Europeans, such as Volvo and perennial IQS-poor performer Volkswagen, as posting well-below average performances. Mercedes-Benz, which trumped the first VDS in 1990, fell below average for the second straight year. On an average brand-by-brand basis, Europeans are way far off the mark. Japanese makers, of which there are 11 (including those owned by American and European companies), posted 262 problems per 100 on average. Interestingly, of all the brands falling below average, each of them is at least partially owned by an American or European conglomerate.

Europeans, of which four of nine are owned by American automakers, posted 306 problems per 100. The 14 American brands posted 268 problems per 100, just six off the pace of the Japanese. The three Korean brands fared worse in the industry, posting 424 problems. General Motors will begin selling one of those Korean brands, Daewoo, under Suzuki and Chevrolet banners starting later this year.

Of the individual nameplates, Toyota continued as industry best as it swiped eight of the 17 categories with best vehicle in class. The Corolla, Tacoma, Rav4 and Avalon were among such vehicles. Ford and GM tied for the second-most vehicles as best in class at three, including the F-Series pickup and Mercury Villager for Ford and the Chevrolet Malibu and GMC Yukon. Honda's Acura brand was the only other to take top-in-class honors.

Long-term quality measures have a big consumer impact, according to J.D. Power research. Among new-vehicle buyers, 52 percent indicate that long-term durability is among their most important factors in choosing a vehicle and 42 percent of used-vehicle buyers report buying a used vehicle instead of a new vehicle because they felt that the quality of the used vehicle is as good as a new one. This is particularly true among luxury used-vehicle buyers, according to the firm.

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