The study by J.D. Power and Associates, an automotive research firm, assesses how Americans feel about their 3-year-old vehicles. The survey had over 41,000 owners of 2011 model year automobiles as participants.
As per the study, the average 2011 model year vehicle has 133 problems for every 100 vehicles. This is a 6 percent jump from the 126 problems reported in the 2013 survey. The drop in reliability is remarkable as it is the first since 1998. After car manufacturers have consistently made strides in improving reliability for years, this time they have taken a step back.
David Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president of global automotive, said that complaints about the quality of vehicles has been increasing. While the problems are not major and will not result in the breakdown of vehicles, they are annoying to owners.
According to Sargent, most of the customer complaints are regarding engine and transmission. Four-engine cylinders in particular got the most complaints. Owners of vehicles with 4-cylinder engines are irritated by issues such as engine hesitation and rough transmission shifting, among others. He pointed out that while the owners of 2011 models appreciate their vehicles’ fuel economy, the way the engines feel while driving leaves something to be desired.
Sargent noted that the problem was rooted in the automakers’ desire to lower fuel consumption. In their efforts to boost fuel efficiency, they end up compromising quality. He said that consumers want fuel efficient autos, but they want their fuel efficient autos to drive well.
Karl Brauer, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, echoed Sargent’s sentiment. In a Los Angeles Times report, he mentioned that automakers are trying their best to make autos most fuel efficient, adding technology and gears to 4-cylinder engines and transmissions respectively. However, all these additions result in issues that still need to be addressed.
Aside from engine and transmission problems, car owners also complained about issues with infotainment systems. There are drivers who still have problems operating their entertainment and navigation systems after three years of ownership, and these issues were reflected in the study.
The J.D Power study also showed that some brands have less problems than others. For the third consecutive year, Lexus has remained the most reliable car brand. Lexus vehicles only had 68 problems per 100 vehicles.
In second place is Mercedes-Benz, which had 104 problems. The top five was rounded out by Cadillac (107), Acura (109), and Buick (112).
The worst performers are Hyundai (169), Jeep (178), Land Rover (179), and Dodge (181). Hyundai is considered the least reliable brand with 185 problems per 100 vehicles.
General Motors is the highest ranking domestic brand. In addition to the high rankings of Cadillac and Buick, Chevrolet and GMC did not do so bad either, with 132 and 133 problems respectively. Sargent expected General Motors’ notable performance, saying that the company’s vehicle dependability is improving.
More good news for GM: their vehicles ranked at the top of eight automotive segments. Segment winners include Cadillac’s DTS and Escalade, Chevrolet’s Camaro and Volt, GMC’s Sierra (both the light-duty and heavy-duty variety) and Yukon, as well as the discontinued Buick Lucerne.