2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study:Most Owners Still in Love with Their Three-Year-Old Vehicles

Joseph Dobrian | Feb 14, 2018

Consumers who buy new vehicles tend to still be happy with them after three years of ownership, according to the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS). Overall vehicle dependability improves 9% over 2017—the first time the industry score has improved since 2013.

The Vehicle Dependability Study, now in its 29th year, measures the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100)—covering 177 specific problems grouped into eight major vehicle categories—during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old vehicles (the 2018 study examines 2015 model-year vehicles). The overall industry average improves in this year’s study to 142 PP100, down from 156 PP100 in 2017.

2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study“For the most part, automotive manufacturers continue to meet consumers’ vehicle dependability expectations,” said Dave Sargent, Vice President, Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “A nine-percent improvement is extremely impressive, and vehicle dependability is, without question, at its best level ever. For people looking for a new or used model, now is a good time to find that special vehicle.”

Despite Long-Term Quality Improvement, Technology is Still an Issue

Audio/Communications/Entertainment/Navigation (ACEN) is the most troublesome category for vehicle owners in the 2018 VDS, receiving the highest frequency of complaints. The two most common problems relate to built-in voice recognition (9.3 PP100) and built-in Bluetooth connectivity (7.7 PP100). Another key finding is that mass-market brands appear to be gaining on their luxury counterparts in terms of dependability. The “dependability gap” between mass market and luxury models now amounts to only 7 PP100: 143 PP100 for mass-market brands and 136 PP100 for luxury brands.

J.D. Power finds that vehicle residual values can be significantly affected by better long-term quality.

“Strong dependability scores not only improve demand for used vehicles, but also are a contributor to higher residual values,” said Jonathan Banks, Vice President of Vehicle Analysis and Analytics at J.D. Power. “Improving dependability ultimately supports new vehicle sales and provides a better perception of the brand.”

Lexus, Porsche Top Luxury Car Brands; Buick Leads Mass Market

For a seventh consecutive year, Lexus ranks highest in overall vehicle dependability among all brands, with a score of 99 PP100. Porsche ranks a close second with 100 PP100. Buick ranks third in overall vehicle dependability and highest among mass-market brands with a score of 116 PP100.

Fiat is the most improved brand in this year’s VDS, with owners experiencing a remarkable 106 fewer PP100 than in 2017. (Nissan comes second in this metric, with a reduction of 37 PP100; Ford ranks third, with 31 fewer PP100 this year.) Infiniti has the largest improvement in rank position, moving from 29th in the 2017 VDS to fourth in this year’s study. Kia’s No. 5 ranking is the brand’s best-ever VDS performance. Dodge and Nissan also earn their best rankings ever.

Toyota Motor Corp. models take home six of the 19 segment awards in this year’s study—the most for an individual automaker. The Lexus CT, Lexus ES, Lexus GS, Lexus RX, Toyota Prius and Toyota Tacoma all earn category awards in the 2018 VDS. Five segment awards go to General Motors models, including the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Traverse, and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500.

Other models receiving segment awards include the Dodge Challenger, Ford F-Series Super Duty, Ford Expedition, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Rio, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, and the Audi Q3. The Q3 is the only model in this year’s study to receive an award in its introductory year.

Consumer Tips

Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • Examine not only the PP100 numbers for any model that you’re thinking of buying, but where those problems tend to arise. If the problems lie in an optional feature that you’re not interested in, adjust your assessment accordingly.
  • Research whether specific problems that appear in these studies have been addressed by the automaker, and whether the problems seem to have been fixed. See if there’s a story behind a dramatic improvement or disimprovement in the PP100 score of any model you’re considering.
  • Analyze the mechanical areas where problems seem to be cropping up. How relevant are they to the way you plan to use the vehicles you’re considering?

About the Study

The 2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from 36,896 original owners of 2015 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded in October-December 2017.

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