J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study entered its 28th year with a familiar face resting atop the leaderboard, while one automaker fell flat on its face -- and hard.
Lexus and Porsche tied for top honors in this year's survey, which looks at problems reported in the past year by original owners of vehicles 3 model years old. This is Lexus' sixth year atop the rankings, with a score of 110 problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100). Porsche rose to tie Lexus after being the runner-up last year.
Toyota came in third, and including its subsidiary Lexus, it swallowed up 10 of the 18 segment awards for dependability, the highest number a corporation has ever received in the study's history. The 2014 Toyota Camry also picked up the lowest PP100 score across the entire auto industry.
Dodge came in dead last in 2016, with a score of 208. This year, it went up three spots, but its sister company Fiat went from bad to worse. Fiat's 2016 score of 171 ballooned to a whopping 298 in 2017, placing it dead last by nearly 90 points. Fiat Chrysler brands occupy four of the five lowest scores, with Infiniti slotting itself neatly in the middle of that sandwich of undesirability.
The study covers 177 different problems across eight defined categories. Tech-related issues continue to pester automakers, and these issues led to an overall decrease in the industry's average score. Battery failure entered the top 10 list of problems for the first time this year, with 44 percent more owners reporting battery failures than last year.
Audio, communication, entertainment and navigation prove the most troublesome category for both automakers and owners. It covers more than one-fifth of all reported problems. For the third year in a row, the most reported problems covered Bluetooth pairing and voice recognition misinterpreting commands.
This, of course, represents a problem -- not only for automakers, but also for J.D. Power. As my good friend Jeremy at Autoblog noted last year, the most commonly reported problem isn't one that involves a mechanical failure, or something that could send a vehicle in for a long, expensive repair. Rather, it's a nuisance, an issue that could very well involve subjectivity. And those nuisances can come back to bite automakers' bottom line.
Should the scores be taken with a grain of salt? Absolutely, especially when technological missteps are graded with the same weight as, say, catastrophic engine failure. But it also highlights the need for automakers to take in-car tech as seriously as it would any other vehicle component. Saving a few bucks here or there with a slightly weaker Bluetooth receiver or a less involved voice recognition system can have some serious ramifications, because buyers do pay attention to these studies.
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