Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Car and Truck Reliability Hits Record High

Philippe Desmazes | AFP | Getty Images

For years we’ve been reporting on automakers doing a better job building cars and trucks. Their dependability has steadily improved, even as the cars and trucks have become more complex with safety enhancements and expanded electronics.

In fact, the latest survey by J.D. Powerfinds vehicle dependability (as rated by vehicle owners) is at its highest level since 1990, when the first dependability survey was conducted.

Some highlights from the J.D. Power and Associates survey:

  • A dramatic drop (13%) in vehicle dependability complaints for 3 year old cars/trucks
  • 25 out of 32 auto brands improved their vehicle dependability ratings
  • 31,000 original owners of 2009 models took part in the survey late last year

Two things stand out about the survey

First, in 2009 there were massive recalls of Toyota and Lexus models. You would think those recalls would skew the survey to reflect disappointed or disgruntled owners, but think again. J.D. power says the survey asks owners to report if they have had a problem with their car or truck, not whether or not the vehicle had been recalled.

Second, the hardware of cars and trucks, the way they are assembled and how they hold up after three years on the road continues to improve. The percentage of complaints about the mechanical functions of 3-year old models has dropped. What is increasing are the number of complaints about the software and electronics in cars and trucks. That is not surprising since vehicles are packed with more sophisticated systems for connectivity, navigation, and entertainment.

Now for the winners and losers among the 33 auto brands rated.


  1. Lexus
  2. Porsche
  3. Cadillac
  4. Toyota
  5. Scion

THE BOTTOM FIVE (out of 33)

33) Chrysler
32) Dodge
31) Jeep
30) Ram
29) Jaguar


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