Last week, J.D. Power and Associates released its long-awaited annual study on the initial quality of cars and light trucks sold in America.
There were some pleasant surprises and some not-so-pleasant ones. There will be quite a few midnight meetings to figure out how and why certain vehicles ranked the way they did.
It's quite a feather in the caps of the folks at J.D. Power that this annual study has so much horsepower. Not too long ago, the automobile companies tried to deride the study; if they didn't like the results, they tried to kill the messenger.
It didn't work. Consumers like the study and realize that the results are honest and come from new-car and truck owners. Manufacturers might not like the results, but they show how buyers feel about their vehicles.
But I wonder what impact the study has had over the years. Mainstream manufacturers work hard to improve their quality. And if you're buying a particular brand of vehicle, you expect it to rank near the top.
When Mercedes-Benz fell on hard times in the J.D. Power study a few years ago, the folks at Mercedes must have been wringing their hands trying to figure out how to get back near the top.
But this year, we have a watershed event. One of the hottest vehicles sold in the United States is also the worst in terms of initial quality.
The Hummer seems to have a real problem with quality, according to owners. They report the highest number of problems per vehicle. That's a record no one wants.
But does it really matter?
The Hummer H2 is one of the most popular vehicles on the market today, and there is no sign of its popularity waning. Will the potential Hummer owner shy away from this vehicle because of its standing in the J.D. Power study?
My bet is that Hummer sales will continue to be as hot as ever, and only the dealership service department will have to worry about fixing those manufacturing problems.
J.D. Power does a great job of measuring customer satisfaction through the initial quality study. It's an asset to the industry. But Hummer buyers couldn't care less.