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2014 Initial Quality Study: All-New Models Generally More Problematic

2014 Initial Quality Study: All-New Models Generally More Problematic

By Jeff Youngs,

When automakers introduce new models, or redesigns of existing models, reported problems typically increase. The J.D. Power Initial Quality StudySM (IQS) has, over the course of 28 years, found this to generally be the case. In the 2014 IQS, all-new or redesigned models averaged 128 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), compared with an average 113 PP100 for carryover or slightly changed models.

New technology is frequently a significant contributor to a decline in satisfaction in new or redesigned vehicles. "Automakers are trying to give consumers the new features and technology they want without introducing additional quality problems into their vehicles. However, almost all automakers are struggling to do this flawlessly with some consumers indicating that the technology is hard to understand, difficult to use, or simply does not always work as designed," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power.

This year, the three brands suffering the most substantial declines in customer satisfaction with initial quality each introduced new or completely redesigned versions of their best-selling models. Acura redesigned its MDX midsize crossover SUV, GMC redesigned its Sierra 1500 light-duty pickup truck, and Infiniti introduced the new Q50 sport luxury sedan, which replaced the G37 sedan*.

Each of these new or redesigned models debuted new technologies to their buyers, and because each represents a significant portion of sales for their respective nameplates, owner complaints about each had a significant effect on the overall decline of their respective brand scores in the 2014 IQS.

Ford Motor Company witnessed several years ago how technology can have an adverse effect on brand IQS performance when it first introduced its MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems. Since then, a program of continual improvement and refinement, combined with the reappearance of traditional knobs and buttons in some models, has helped both Ford and Lincoln to dramatically improve their individual brand rankings in the 2014 IQS.

Though often a major factor, the addition of sophisticated vehicle technology is not always responsible for a dip in quality. This year, the Mazda MX-5 Miata experienced the fourth most significant decline in initial quality among all individual models, and it is a simple vehicle offering nothing more complicated than Bluetooth connectivity in terms of technology. Similarly, it is also possible for an automaker to introduce a redesigned model equipped with new technology and actually improve the model's quality in the process, as Toyota has done with the new 2014 Highlander.

*The 2013 Infiniti G37 sedan continues as the 2015 Infiniti Q40.

Additional Research:

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