BEIJING -- The quality of Japanese cars is winning over Chinese customers.
Japanese brands ranked first in four of five categories in the J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2005 China Initial Quality Study.
General Motors won the remaining category, compact cars, with the Chevrolet Spark.
The study measures problems experienced by consumers who had owned their cars at least two months but no more than six months.
"The influx of newly launched models that excel in initial quality in the China market is raising the competition to a higher level," said John Humphrey, managing director of J.D. Power Asia Pacific's China operations.
Toyota models took first place in the premium mid-sized, entry mid-sized and mid-sized car segments with the Camry, Vios and Corolla. The Vios and Corolla are assembled in China; the Camry is imported. Toyota will begin assembling the model in China in mid-2006.
The Honda Odyssey ranked first in the multipurpose vehicle segment.
The results mirror those in the United States, where Toyota models were tops in 10 of 18 categories in the 2005 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study. GM earned five top awards.
The results can be predictors of future sales. Only 15 percent of Chinese customers who experienced more problems than expected said they would definitely recommend the model to others, according to J.D. Power.
Recommendations play an important role in Chinese consumers' buying decisions, said Philippe Coquelle, automotive sector research director for A.C. Nielsen China.
"When you ask Chinese what their source of buying information is, about 30 percent say friends and relatives," he said.
Chinese domestic brands improved in the survey but still lag foreign brands, said J.D. Power without providing data. The company releases the names and scores of only the top three models in each segment.
Humphrey said: "The success of Chinese domestic brands in global markets largely depends on how fast they catch up to multinational OEMs in the area of quality, reliability and durability."
Chery Automobile Co. aims to begin exporting to the United States and Europe in 2007, and Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. will show a model at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.
You may e-mail Alysha Webb at [email protected]