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Engine and Transmission Problems on the Rise, According to J.D. Power 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study

By: Jeff Youngs, 2/12/2014
For the first time in 15 years, the dependability of 3-year-old vehicles has declined compared with the previous year, according to the results of the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM(VDS). One major reason? Increased customer dissatisfaction with engines and transmissions.

"Until this year, we have seen a continual 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."

According to the study, the decline in dependability is largely due to a significant increase in reported problems with 4-cylinder engines and their transmissions. Sargent says that while automakers continually strive to improve fuel economy they must also ensure high levels of customer satisfaction with powertrain solutions. "Such problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts, and lack of power indicate that this is a continuing challenge."

J.D. Power also finds that high customer satisfaction with dependability correlates to brand loyalty when consumers trade in their old car for a new one. By comparing the results of last year's dependability study with trade-in data supplied by the Power Information Network (PIN) from J.D. Power, the company finds that 56% of car buyers purchase the same brand of car when they've reported no problems with their old vehicle, compared with 42% of car buyers who did experience problems with their previous vehicle.

Additionally, through its 2014 U.S. Avoider Study, J.D. Power finds that consumers actively avoid models that rank lower in terms of dependability. "Brands with lower dependability are likely to be shut out of a significant piece of the market, as many consumers will not even consider purchasing one of their vehicles because of concerns about its likely reliability," Sargent said.

2014 Vehicle Dependability Study Results
By a significant margin, Lexus is the highest-ranked brand for vehicle dependability, its models averaging 68 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) compared with 104 PP100 for the second-highest-ranked brand in the study, Mercedes-Benz, and 107 PP100 for the third-highest-ranked brand, Cadillac. Among mainstream brands, Buick ranks highest with 112 PP100, followed by Honda and Toyota, each with 114 PP100. For reference, the industry average in the 2014 VDS is 133 PP100.

At the corporate level, General Motors (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC) earns more dependability awards than any other automaker, with eight of the company's models ranking at the top of their respective segments. Toyota Motor Corp. receives a total of seven segment-level awards for its Lexus, Scion, and Toyota brands, while Honda Motor Co. receives six awards in the 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study for its Acura and Honda nameplates.

For a complete listing of the most dependable models, including those that rank among the top three in each segment, view the 2014 VDS Top-Ranked Cars, Trucks and SUVs photo gallery.

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