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GM joins Toyota at top of J.D. Power dependability rankings

Owners of Toyota’s Lexus reported 95 problems per 100 vehicles, the lowest rate for any brand. (Photo: iStock)
Owners of Toyota’s Lexus reported 95 problems per 100 vehicles, the lowest rate for any brand. (Photo: iStock)

(Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. dominated J.D. Power’s latest U.S. vehicle dependability study, as auto owners reported more problems overall because of technologies including voice recognition and navigation systems.

GM landed three brands in the top 10 and had the leading vehicle in eight categories, more than any other automaker. Toyota’s Lexus luxury division captured the No. 1 spot for the fifth year in a row, the company’s namesake brand ranked fourth and six of its models led their categories. The market research firm’s annual study is based on reports from owners after three years. 

The study, released Wednesday, is a benchmark watched by automakers and consumers. J.D. Power again cited technology issues as the industry average rose to 152 problems per 100 vehicles, from 147 a year earlier. Infotainment, navigation and in-vehicle communications systems now account for 20% of all issues reported by customers, the firm said in a statement.

“In the context of conversations around autonomous vehicles, the industry clearly has more work to do to secure the trust of consumers,” Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power, said in the statement. “If consumers can’t rely on their vehicle to connect to their smartphone, or have faith that their navigation system will route them to their destination, they’re certainly not yet ready to trust that autonomous technology will keep their vehicle out of the ditch.”

Cadillac was the only one of GM’s four brands not to rank in the top 10. The company’s Buick Verano, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Camaro and Buick LaCrosse cars; Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Yukon sport utility vehicles; and Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup were rated highest in their catagories.

Owners of Toyota’s Lexus reported 95 problems per 100 vehicles, the lowest rate for any brand. The company’s models that ranked best in their categories were the Lexus ES and Lexus GS cars, the Toyota Prius v, the Lexus GS SUV, the Toyota Sienna minivan and the Toyota Tundra pickup.

Recall pain

The 2016 J.D. Power study comes amid the recall of millions of vehicles to replace potentially defective Takata Corp. air bags, which can deploy with too much force, spraying shrapnel at passengers. The bags are the subject of the largest automotive safety recall in U.S. history and have been linked to at least 10 deaths.

At the same time, Volkswagen AG’s namesake brand has been working out its own recall plan with U.S. regulators after the company admitted to installing devices meant to defeat emissions tests. Volkswagen has stopped deliveries of most of its diesel-powered vehicles in the aftermath of the scandal. The Volkswagen brand’s number of problems per 100 vehicles rose to 169 from 165 a year earlier and again was below the industry average.

“The decline in reliability coupled with a record number of vehicle recalls and safety-related complaints affect consumer confidence,” Stephens said. “Dependability has a direct impact on purchase decisions and brand loyalty.”

J.D. Power’s study found that 55% of owners who experienced no problems with their vehicle ended up buying from the same brand again, while just 41% of owners who experienced three or more problems with their vehicle stayed with the same brand for their next purchase.

The research firm, a unit of McGraw Hill Financial Inc., said it collected responses from October through December from 33,560 original owners of 2013-model vehicles. The study ranked 32 brands. The list didn’t include Jaguar or Tesla because of small sample size.

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