New Car Quality Hits Record, Except for One Thing

Car dealership

New car buyers in the U.S. are finding fewer problems with the latest models rolling out of showrooms.

In fact, the annual survey of initial quality of autos by J.D. Power finds the number of problems reported in new cars it tracks is at a record low. The J.D. Power resultsare based on the responses of more than 74,000 buyers of 2012 model-year vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

“The automakers continue to improve the fit, finish and mechanical operations in new car and trucks,” said Dave Sargent of J.D. Power. “The one area where they are struggling to eliminate glitches is with in-car communication and entertainment systems.”

In fact, buyers reported an increase in the number of problems related to entertainment, in-car connectivity and navigation systems. Complaints about these tech features jumped 8 percent in the latest quality survey.

Car Quality Improving?

What’s causing these glitches? Some of it is due to automakers rolling out more systems that include hands-free technology that rely on voice-recognition software. That software is not always working as it should.

According to J.D. Power, hands-free devices not recognizing commands is the most frequently reported problem in the industry.

Sargent is not surprised.

“People get frustrated very quickly when they’re talking to their car and it’s not doing what they want,” he said.

Electronic glitches aside, many automakers did a much better job with the cars and trucks rolling off the assembly line. The top five brands and the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles:

1. Toyota(72)
2. (tie) Jaguar (75)
2. (tie) Porsche (75)
4. Cadillac (80)
(industry average 102)

The bottom six (out of 34 brands)

34. (tie) Smart (151)
34. (tie) Fiat (151)
32. MINI (139)
29. (tie) Volkswagen (124)
29. (tie) Mitsubishi (124)
29. (tie) Chrysler (124)

A couple of notes:

  • Jaguar is the most-improved brand when it comes to reducing problems.
  • MINI showed the greatest increase in reported problems.
  • Ford and Lexus had the most “segment leading models” with three each.
  • BMW cracked the top 10 for the first time since 2005.

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