Toyota makes stronger showing in J.D. Power seat quality study

Ford C-Max seats showed the lowest incidence of problems

Seats in the 2014 Toyota Tundra came from Avanzar Interior Technologies, a joint venture supplier with Johnson Controls Inc.

Toyota Motor Corp. made sizable gains in a J.D. Power seat quality study, with six of the 21 vehicles recognized for superior seating, two more than last year.

The Toyota 4Runner and Lexus RX made another appearance at the top of the list, joined this year by the Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia. The seats on the Tacoma and Tundra came from Avanzar Interior Technologies Ltd., a Johnson Controls Inc. joint venture supplier in San Antonio.

The seating in Toyota’s Scion iQ, made by affiliated supplier Toyota Boshoku Corp., was recognized for excellent seating in the compact car segment.

J.D. Power’s annual Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study evaluates seating for automakers and their suppliers. The study, released last week, identifies three vehicles in each of seven vehicle segments. The three vehicles with the lowest number of problems per 100 vehicles make the individual segment list.

The study, conducted earlier this year, asked new-vehicle owners to rate the quality of their vehicle seats and seat belts based on whether they experienced defects/malfunctions or design problems during the first 90 days of ownership. The study used responses from more than 86,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 model-year cars and light trucks.

The Range Rover Evoque, Porsche Cayenne and Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty also won praise in the study, earning additional segment awards for Johnson Controls.

The Ford C-Max and Porsche Panamera also were recognized for quality seating, earning Magna International Inc. the top rank in the compact SUV/crossover segment. The C-Max had a strikingly lower instance of seat-related problems than any other car in the study, with an average of 1.6 problems per 100 vehicles.

J.D. Power gave Bridgewater Interiors the highest ranking in the midsize/large SUV segment for the seating in the Honda Pilot, while Lear Corp. is at the top of the midsize/large car segment for the seating in the Buick Regal.

The Hyundai Seat Division was ranked highest in the compact car segment for the seating in the South Korean-made Hyundai Elantra. The U.S.-made version of the Elantra finished second, with seats made by Lear.

Toyota was second to General Motors in last year’s study, placing four vehicles on the list, compared with GM’s five. Ford, Mazda, Honda, Hyundai and Audi all placed two vehicles on the list last year.

Supplier kudos

Among suppliers, JCI and Avanzar led the list with five of the 21, including all three in the mass market truck/van segment. JCI was named four times on the list last year.

Lear and Toyota affiliate Toyota Boshoku this year each had four while Magna International Inc. had three. Last year, Lear had five on the list, Boshoku placed three, and Magna listed two.

In other findings, J.D. Power said it found automakers are incorporating more third-row seating to meet consumer demand, but some forego cargo space and quality in exchange for the extra passenger space.

The segments with increases in the percentage of new vehicles offering third-row seating include trucks and vans, up 4 percentage points to 23 percent from 2013. Compact SUVs and crossovers are still new to the third-row feature, up 1.4 percentage points to 2 percent of new vehicles offering them.

“There is demand on third-row seats, and automakers are trying to meet that demand,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, J.D. Power’s executive director of global automotive.

He said the obstacle is “to provide a functional third-row seat that meets customer needs and expectations without compromising quality, comfort and space.”

Owners who regularly use their third-row seating for passengers tended to be more content with the comfort and roominess of the third row than owners who rarely used it, J.D. Power found. However, there were issues with trying to get in and out of third-row seats and the loss of cargo space when the third row is in use, especially in smaller vehicles.

More seats, more problems?

The addition of a third row meets demand for more seating, but it also creates more opportunity for something to fail, according to a statement from J.D. Power last week. This is especially true for compact SUVs and crossovers, as these vehicles are not always large enough to sustain a third row while offering adequate cargo space.

Compact SUVs and crossovers with third-row seating average 13 seat-related problems per 100 vehicles, J.D. Power found. That is compared with an industry average of 11.4 seat-related problems per 100 vehicles.

The truck and van segment experiences the least seat-related problems in the industry, at 8.6 per 100 vehicles.

You can reach Nora Naughton at -- Follow Nora on Twitter:

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