Europe's automakers have boosted initial quality in the US, according to the latest J.D. Power and Associates study. It shows that all but three European brands improved their positions. Saab was stable, Land Rover slipped 4 points and Volvo plunged from No. 14 to No. 28.
A relentless focus on quality does pay off, at least in the Power rankings. Audi rose three spots to No. 8 on a three-year quality initiative. The Volkswagen unit is tailoring key features to US tastes, a move that appears to be bearing fruit.
BMW moved into third place from the No. 11 spot last year, reducing defects by 13 percent.
Mercedes-Benz improved to tie for No. 5 as it begins to make good on promises to improve electronics, brakes and other weak spots. The gains come despite Mercedes CEO Eckhard Cordes questioning how important the Power survey is.
Cordes has a point. Rival Audi's gains in the survey certainly don't automatically mean higher sales. In the first four months, Audi sales are up only 0.5 percent in a US pasenger car market that overall gained 3.6 percent.
This is an industry full of choices. Perhaps some automakers could profit more by focusing on other issues. But with the spotlight on Mercedes' quality reputation, Cordes may have little choice but to keep improving his Power score.