For the 11th straight year, Lexus is the top brand for long-term quality, a J.D. Power and Associates study concludes.
According to Power's 2005 Vehicle Dependability Study, owners of 2002 model Lexus cars and trucks reported 139 problems per 100 vehicles. The industry average is 237 problems.
The Westlake Village, Calif., research firm queried 50,635 original owners of 2002 models from late January through April about current problems with their vehicles.
Lexus showed a 14 percent improvement in dependability over 2004, Power says. Lexus vehicles rank first in three of the 19 car and truck segments included in the study. Many of those 19 models are no longer produced or have been redesigned since the 2002 model year.
The Lexus LS 430 had 90 problems per 100 vehicles. It is the first model in the 16-year history of study to have fewer than one problem per vehicle.
Porsche, Hyundai rise
Porsche showed dramatic improvement. It finished second in dependability, up from 10th last year. Porsche had 149 problems per 100 vehicles, a 38 percent year-over-year improvement.
"Porsche didn't change much of their lineup" from the 2001 to 2002 model year, says Neal Oddes, Power's director of product research. "They just improved on what they had."
Hyundai showed the largest year-over-year reduction in the number of problems reported by owners. The brand had 260 problems per 100 vehicles, a reduction of 115 problems from last year's study.
Chevrolet placed first in four model segments, more than any other brand. The study ranked Chevrolet's Prizm and Malibu cars and S10 and Silverado HD pickups most dependable in their segments.
Among other General Motors vehicles, the Buick Century and LeSabre sedans and GMC Yukon/Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade EXT SUVs finished atop their segments. Those eight segment victories were the highest ever for GM, Oddes says.
Ford Motor Co. vehicles finished first in five segments. Toyota had four segment leaders.
The Escalade EXT and the redesigned Ford Thunderbird, another segment winner, debuted in the 2002 model year. A first-year vehicle finishing on top in dependability "is very rare," Oddes says.
Audi, Saab decline
Overall, the Power study says, long-term vehicle quality increased 12 percent from 2004 to 2005. Audi and Saab were the only brands that did not show year-over-year improvements.
Audi had 312 problems per 100 vehicles in this year's study, a 6 percent increase from 2004. Audi spokesman Patrick Hespen says Audi "has brought in more engineers focused on quality" in the past few years.
Saab had 286 problems per 100 vehicles, an 8 percent increase from last year. Annette Clayton, GM North America's vice president of quality, says GM has spent several years integrating Saab into its vehicle development process.
"Saab is now following the same processes we've followed with other vehicles," Clayton says. "The 9-3 was redesigned in the 2003 model year, and that redesign should help significantly."
Kia, which had 397 problems per 100 vehicles, finished last in the 2005 study. Land Rover, last year's lowest performer, was second to last this year with 395 problems per 100 vehicles.