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2009 Initial Quality Study Results

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2008
The J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, or IQS, serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study is used extensively by manufacturers worldwide to help them design and build better vehicles and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions. Initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term durability, which can significantly impact consumer purchase decisions. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories: design-related problems, and defects and malfunctions.

The 2009 Initial Quality Study provides information gathered from over 80,000 purchasers and lessees of 2009 model-year vehicles. Performance is measured using a "problems per 100 vehicles (PP100)" metric. A lower PP100 score indicates better performance and a higher PP100 score indicates worse performance. The 2009 study covers a total of 228 total problems, and organizes them into the following eight categories:
  • Exterior
  • The Driving Experience
  • Features/Controls/Displays
  • Audio/Entertainment/Navigation
  • Seats
  • HVAC, or Climate Controls
  • Interior
  • Engine/Transmission
One trend that has emerged in the 2009 Initial Quality Study is that new vehicles sold by Chrysler, Ford and GM's domestic brands have improved in initial quality by an average of 10 percent, compared with 2008, surpassing the 8-percent rate of improvement by the industry overall.

"Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, the Detroit automakers are keeping their focus on designing and building high-quality vehicles, which is a precondition for long-term success," said David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.

The study finds that initial quality for newly launched and redesigned models in 2009 has improved compared with previous years. Historically, all-new models have typically launched with below-average levels of initial quality. However, several all-new models in 2009, including the Hyundai Genesis, Kia Borrego, Toyota Venza and Volkswagen CC, perform considerably better than their respective segment averages. Many redesigned models in 2009 also show notable improvement from the previous generation-particularly the Acura TL, Ford F-150, Honda Pilot and Nissan Z.

"Achieving high levels of initial quality in all-new models is one of the greatest challenges for manufacturers," said Sargent. "Now that more manufacturers are getting their launch quality right straight out of the gate, consumers can expect the quality of new vehicles to continue to rise."

For the latest quality information, view the 2010 Initial Quality Study results.
Other highlights from the 2009 Initial Quality Study include:
  • Overall, the industry average for initial quality is 108 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2009, down from 118 PP100 in 2008. Initial quality for domestic brands has improved to an average of 112 PP100 in 2009 from 124 PP100 in 2008, while import brands have improved to an average of 106 PP100 in 2009 from 114 PP100 in 2008.
  • Lexus leads the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 84 PP100. This is the 12th time Lexus has been the highest-ranked brand in the 20 years it has been included in the IQS and the first time since 2005.
  • Following in the rankings are Porsche, Cadillac (which moves from 10th rank position in 2008 to third in 2009), Hyundai (improves from 13th rank position in 2008 to fourth in 2009) and Honda, rounding out the top five.
  • Toyota Motor Corporation captures 10 segment awards-more than any other automaker in the 2009 study-including five for Lexus, four for Toyota and one for Scion. Lexus receives awards for the IS, GS, GX, LS and LX models. The Lexus LX has the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 52 PP100. Toyota models receiving awards in their respective segments are the 4Runner (in a tie); Sienna; Tundra (in a tie); and Yaris.
  • Ford receives three awards for the Edge (in a tie); F-150 (in a tie); and Mustang. Garnering two awards each are Nissan (Altima and Z); and Honda (CR-V, in a tie, and Ridgeline).
  • Also receiving segment awards are: Chevrolet TrailBlazer (in a tie), Chrysler PT Cruiser (in a tie), GMC Yukon, Hyundai Elantra Sedan, Mercury Sable and Scion tC.
  • Suzuki is the most-improved nameplate in the industry this year. A reduction of 49 PP100 moves the Japanese brand from 32nd place in 2008 to ninth place this year. Suzuki is also the most improved nameplate for both Defects/Malfunctions and Design-related problems. Also, Saturn improves by 37 PP100 and Jeep by 30 PP100.
  • The Toyota Motor Corporation assembly plant in Higashi-Fuji, Japan, receives the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles yielding the fewest defects and malfunctions. Averaging just 29 PP100, the plant produces the Lexus SC 430 and Toyota Corolla. (Plant awards are based solely on average levels of defects and malfunctions and exclude design-related problems.)
  • Among North and South American plants, the Honda plant in East Liberty, Ohio, which produces the Civic Sedan, CR-V and Element, achieves the Gold Plant Quality Award.
  • In the Europe and Africa region, Daimler's East London, South Africa, plant, which produces the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, receives the Gold Plant Quality Award.
About the Study
The 2009 Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 80,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2009 model-year cars, trucks and multi-activity vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 228-question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate identifying problems and drive product improvement. The study was fielded between February and May of 2009.

For the latest quality information, view the 2010 Initial Quality Study results.

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