To the Editor:
In the Aug. 30 issue of Automotive News, you published a letter from Vic Koenig that described the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study results as a "hoax" because the results are expressed in terms of problems per 100 vehicles, rather than just giving raw numbers (e.g., problems per one vehicle).
By doing this, Koenig suggested, J.D. Power and Associates might make trivial differences appear substantial. He cited the example of Lexus, with 162 problems per 100 vehicles, which has only about one problem per vehicle less than the industry average of 269.
The use of a problems-per-100-vehicles metric dates back several decades even before J.D. Power and Associates started using it.
In fact, it is a less granular measure than that typically employed by some manufacturers, which also use a parts-per-1,000 metric. So J.D. Power is definitely not engaging in number inflation.
Further, when we have from time to time compared survey data with detailed warranty records from manufacturers, we have found a very strong correlation.
Vehicle Dependability Study problems, including specific information on component replacement, measure much the same things as the manufacturers' warranty claims.
The range of variation in problems per 100 vehicles in the Vehicle Dependability Study is far-reaching, and the impact on customers is significant. Using this metric helps the manufacturer avoid significant losses in repurchase intent. For example, one single additional problem per customer is enough to drop brand repurchase plans from 40 percent to 32 percent.
In addition, when the Vehicle Dependability Study numbers come down, so do manufacturers' warranty expenses.
Over the years, this measurement has enabled manufacturers to focus on quality, which has benefited both dealers and consumers with better products.
We certainly share a common goal with the retail community and manufacturers to help them continuously improve quality, which, in turn, enables them to provide a better product for their customers.