AutoMotion Blog

Top Three Reasons for Decline in Vehicle Dependability

By: Jeff Youngs, 2/17/2014
According to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS), which measures problems experienced by original owners of 2011 model-year vehicles during their third year of ownership, overall vehicle dependability averages 133 PP100, a 6% increase in problems from 126 PP100 in 2013. This marks the first time since the 1998 study that the average number of problems has increased.

"Until this year, we have seen a continuous improvement in vehicle dependability," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "However, some of the changes that automakers implemented for the 2011 model year have led to a noticeable increase in problems reported."

Vehicle owners experienced more problems in three key areas: Engine/Transmission; Audio/Entertainment/Navigation (AEN); and Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning (HVAC).

The largest increase is in the Engine/Transmission category, and primarily occurs in 4-cylinder engines. Increased complaints related to these components include automatic transmissions that shift roughly during normal driving; engines that stumble or hesitate and shut off; "check engine" warning lights; and a lack of power. Specifically, owners cite problems with push-button ignition systems in 2011 models that are new or redesigned for the year, telling J.D. Power that the engine sometimes will not start even when they are pressing on the brake pedal while pushing the button.

In addition to reporting problems with powertrains, vehicle owners cite difficulty using the audio, entertainment, and navigation (AEN) systems, sometimes collectively referred to as "infotainment" systems. In fact, reports that the hands-free communication systems in late-model vehicles frequently do not recognize commands represents the largest increase in owner-reported problems in the 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study. Vehicle owners also cite lost Bluetooth connections and navigation systems that issue inaccurate directions.

The third area showing an increase in reported problems is heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The most common complaint is that the air conditioning doesn't get cold enough, fast enough.

While reported problems in these areas account for the bulk of the decline in vehicle dependability in the latest study, none of them unseat excessive wind noise as the most commonly reported problem by vehicle owners.

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