Vehicle Dependability Study: Biggest Improvements, Steepest Increases in Reported Problems
By: Jeff Youngs, 2/18/2014
Across all models included in the study, the largest improvements in long-term vehicle quality, compared with the previous year, pertain to vehicle braking systems and noisy brakes. Rounding out the top five areas of greatest improvement (listed in order) are tire-pressure monitoring system, brakes that vibrate/shudder, and, in a tie, windshield wipers/washers and exterior paint--peeling/fading/chipping.
What, then, are the areas in which vehicle owners report more problems this year? Individually, the steepest increase in problems with 2011 model-year vehicles is related to hands-free communication systems that don't recognize commands. Collectively, six of the 10 areas with the largest increases in reported problems are in the Engine/Transmission category:
1. Automatic transmission--shifts roughly in normal driving
2. Engine stumbles, hesitates, dies
3. "Check engine" light indicated a problem
4. Engine lacks power (tie)
4. Fluid leaks (tie)
4. Engine won't start at all (tie)
"Automakers are continually looking for ways to improve fuel economy, which is a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, particularly those buying smaller vehicles," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "However, while striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality. Increases in such problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power indicate that this is a continuing challenge."
Beyond the problems with powertrains, the 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study also shows an increase in the number of reported problems with lost hands-free communication system connections and vehicle navigation systems that supply wrong directions or missing information from map displays. Together with increased command recognition problems, it is clear that vehicle owners are having trouble with the engines, transmissions, and audio/entertainment/navigation technology installed in their vehicles.
Finally, more vehicle owners experienced problems with excessive wind noise this year, compared to last year. This issue has long been the leading cause of owner dissatisfaction in the VDS, and it increases in 2011 model-year vehicles at a time when designers are trying to improve aerodynamics in order to maximize fuel economy.
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