Vehicle Dependability Dips in J.D. Power Study

There’s cloudy news on the horizon if you’re thinking about buying a new car.

J.D. Power and Associates released its annual Vehicle Dependability Study today, marking the first year since 1998 that overall vehicle dependability declined compared to the previous year. The decline is being blamed on problems with transmissions and four-cylinder engines. This year’s study shows 133 problems per 100 vehicles compared to 126 last year.

“Automakers are continually looking for ways to improve fuel economy, which is a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, particularly those buying smaller vehicles,” said J.D. Power  vice president of global automotive David Sargent. The government’s mandated 54.5 mpg corporate average by 2025 is the primary driver behind that push.


“However, while striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality,” he said. “Increases in such problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power indicate that this is a continuing challenge.”

Jeep struggled to bring its new Cherokee compact crossover to market after its nine-speed automatic transmission suffered from quality issues. The company subsequently delayed launching the vehicle.

Dependability is a huge contributing factor to brand loyalty for consumers. J.D. Power said today that 56 percent of owners who spend the first three years problem-free will probably stick with the same brand for their next purchase.  Brand loyalty dropped to 42 percent for owners who reported three or more problems.

Lexus ranked at the top this year by a big margin with only 68 problems per 100 vehicles compared to 104 for Mercedes-Benz in second place. Cadillac, Acura and Buick followed up in third, fourth and fifth while Honda, Lincoln and Toyota tied.

Of the brands ranked, MINI scored the worst with 185 problems per 100, followed closely by Dodge with 181 and then Land Rover with 179.

GALLERY: 2013 Lexus RX350 F Sport