Nissan (120) had the largest improvement among brands after seeing its score trimmed by 22 points.
Sargent said Nissan is rebounding after faltering in 2013 when it launched the Altima, Pathfinder and Sentra, adding 43 points to its problems-per-100-vehicles score.
Jaguar (87) and Ram (116) were the other big improvers among brands sitting at or above the industry average.
A strong launch of the sporty F-Type propelled Jaguar to second place in the brand rankings after finishing eighth in 2013. Jaguar said its 2014 lineup also included the XK coupe and convertible, and the XF and XJ sedans.
Ram’s rise was attributed, in part, to advancements in its audio entertainment system.
In addition to GMC, scores tumbled for Fiat, Infiniti, Acura and Jeep after major launches.
The Infiniti Q50 sedan, Acura MDX crossover, Jeep Cherokee, GMC Sierra and Fiat 500L all made debuts.
Fiat (206) added 52 problems per 100 vehicles, and Infiniti (128) had 33 more. Acura (131) tallied 29 more problems than it did a year earlier, and Jeep (146) increased by 28.
Chrysler Group says it has largely addressed the Jeep brand’s technology problems with software updates.
On the Fiat side, the automaker says the 2014 Fiat 500 was actually its third-best performing vehicle in the study, but the car didn’t have a large enough sample size to factor into the overall brand ranking. More 2013 Fiat 500’s were being sold during the survey period than the improved 2014 edition, Chrysler Group said.
“An owner’s quality perception is as much about delivering new products the customer loves ‒ including the latest technology, fuel efficiency, and a well-crafted design ‒ as it is minimizing dislikes such as a voice recognition system that misunderstands commands or a trip to the dealer for a repair,” said Doug Betts, Chrysler Group’s senior vice president of quality, in a statement. “It’s important to continually update our product line and introduce new technologies, but that can have a short-term affect for brands like Jeep and Fiat with new product and technology introductions.”
Acura’s rank fell to 25th place from sixth in 2013, largely attributable to the MDX's launch.
Overall, Fiat was the last-place brand, below Jeep. Rounding out the bottom five were Mitsubishi (145), Scion (140) and Mazda (139).
GMC, which was in second place in 2013, fell out of the top 10 after scoring the industry average of 116. It scored 90 in 2013.
"All of those vehicles are very high volume within those lineups,” Sargent said. “If you launch a high-volume vehicle and it doesn’t go particularly well, then as a brand, you’re going to show some significant decline. One would expect them to bounce back as the vehicle improves with age."