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Chrysler's brands generate mixed results in annual quality study

Fiat's last-place finish in IQS stemmed from small sample size, company says

Betts: "At the end of the day, there are averages and differences."

DETROIT -- Chrysler Group had a mixed bag in the 2014 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.

The Chrysler, Dodge and Ram brands improved, while Jeep results fell primarily on the troubled launch last fall of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and the operation of its nine-speed transmission.

Fiat finished last in the study, and was the only brand with an average of more than two problems per vehicle.

In a written statement, Chrysler said Fiat’s results were skewed in part because a late launch of the 2014 Fiat 500 left the model with an inadequate sample size.

Doug Betts — who became Chrysler’s head of quality almost seven years ago — said the automaker is still trying to catch up to rivals Toyota and Honda.

“We think on true reliability — where somebody has something broken and they have to come in and get it repaired — we believe that we will become competitive with the best,” Betts said.

Chrysler uses third-party measurements such as the Initial Quality Study “to try and understand where we are on some of those broken things versus a Toyota or a Honda, and we’ve set targets to catch up to them and then stay with them,” Betts said.

“We think we’re a few years away from being able to do that.”

Betts said third-party surveys have a purpose, but the differences they measure now are very small between automakers.

“The kinds of thing most people think about is: ‘It broke. I’ve got oil on my driveway.’ But there’s very, very little of that that exists in any of the companies now. Those kinds of things are almost all gone,” Betts said.

“At the end of the day, there are averages and differences. As a consumer, you have to ask yourself: How much does that matter to me versus other things, like a really nice interior?” 

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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