DETROIT -- Nissan and Hummer roared back from dismal performances a year ago to post double-digit gains on the closely watched Initial Quality Study from J.D. Power and Associates.
Lexus maintained its spot at the top of the ranking of quality after 90 days of ownership with a score of 81 problems per 100 vehicles, a 6.9-percent gain from last year. BMW and Audi vaulted into the top 10 this year, displacing Honda and Mercury.
The industry average of 118 problems per 100 vehicles was a slight gain from last years average of 119 problems per 100 vehicles, according to the study released Wednesday.
Toyota Motor Corp. continued its dominance of the study, having the top-rated vehicle in 10 of 18 segments. The Lexus SC 430 was the highest-rated vehicle in the study at 54 problems per 100 vehicles. Its plant in Tahara, Japan, which builds the Lexus GS 300/430 and LS 430, repeated as the top-rated factory for quality.
General Motors vehicles claimed top honors in five vehicle segments.
The industry performance this year remains pretty flat, but that kind of stuff is not uncommon, said Neal Oddes, senior director of research for J.D. Power of Westlake Village, Calif. Its happened twice before in the (19-year) history of the study. Both times before, we saw a dramatic improvement the next year.
Hummer climbs the mountain
Hummer, which finished last in the 2004 study with a score of 173 problems per 100 vehicles, vaulted into a tie for 10th place on the 2005 study. Hummers 2005 score of 110 problems per 100 vehicles equaled that of Korean automaker Hyundai, which was the surprise performer last year.
Toyotas youth-oriented Scion brand also posted a gain, scoring at 134 problems per 100 vehicles this year vs. 158 problems per 100 last year.
The study asks owners to rate vehicle quality on 135 attributes. Last year, Hummer officials complained that their vehicles were downgraded on factors such as fuel-economy, which they argued was not a quality measure.
Oddes noted that Hummers scores improved this year on 76 of the 135 attributes, but its score on fuel economy was unchanged.
Hummer made big improvements on moldings and wind noise, Oddes said. The study hasnt changed since 1998. That kind of increase cant be just on fuel consumption.
Crisis fixes quality
Nissans crisis mentality in the wake of last years rating of 154 problems per 100 vehicles paid off. The automaker rushed 200 engineers from Japan to its new assembly plant in Canton, Miss., to fix problems with the Quest minivan, Titan pickup and Armada SUV.
The result: Nissan rated at 120 problems per 100 vehicles on the new study, just under the industry average of 118 problems per 100 vehicles and tied with Jeep and Mercury. The 2005 Quest improved its rating by 104 problems per 100 vehicles, J.D. Power said. The company does not release the scores of any individual model.
Oddes said he was impressed that automakers are improving vehicle quality at launches. He noted that two new vehicles, the Hyundai Tucson sport wagon and Ford Mustang coupe, ranked among the top three vehicles in their segments even though they were new models in their first year of production.
GM swept J.D. Powers ranking of plant quality for North and South America, with its Oshawa, Canada, No. 1 and No. 2 plants and the plant in Hamtramck, Mich. The ranking displaced GMs Grand River plant in Lansing, Mich., as the top rated plant, and Ford Motor Co.s Wixom, Mich., plant as third ranked.
|Initial Quality by nameplate, 2005 vs. 2004|
|Measured in problems per 100 vehicles|
|Ind. Avg.||118||Ind. Avg.||119|
|Source: J.D. Power and Associates|
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]