Lexus tops J.D. Power dependability ranking; Buick leads mass-market brands

Buick has reclaimed the title as the most dependable mass-market brand after three years of vehicle ownership while luxury marque Lexus again topped the industry, according to J.D. Power.

Buick led the mass-market segment with 116 reported problems per 100 vehicles, 10 fewer than last year. That was good for third place overall and its third mass-market win in four years.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus topped the chart as the most dependable brand for the seventh year in a row, followed by Porsche, according to J.D. Power’s annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, released Wednesday.

Dependability is measured by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, with a lower score signifying higher quality. This year’s study assesses vehicles from the 2015 model year.

Rounding out the top five brands were Infiniti and Kia.

Infiniti’s turnaround

Infiniti saw the biggest improvement in ranking this year. It soared to No. 4, from a bottom-five finish in 2017, with 83 fewer problems per 100 vehicles. Kia’s fifth place spot marks the brand’s “best-ever” performance, according to J.D. Power, with 26 fewer problems compared with last year.



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Jaguar, Honda and Mercedes-Benz fell from the top 10 this year. Lincoln joined the ranks along with Kia and Infiniti.

The industry overall improved for the first time since 2013. The average score came in at 142 problems per 100 vehicles — or down 14 problems — from 2017, for a 9 percent improvement.

J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study

“For the most part, automotive manufacturers continue to meet consumers’ vehicle dependability expectations,” Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “A 9 percent improvement is extremely impressive, and vehicle dependability is, without question, at its best level ever.”

The area that improved the most is powertrain, Sargent told Automotive News.

“We did see some improvement in infotainment; we saw improvement in [the] exterior of vehicles,” Sargent said. “The improvement was pretty much across every area of the vehicle at the industry level.”

Top three models per segment

Segment Highest ranked Others ranked
Small Car Kia Rio Chevrolet Sonic, Nissan Versa
Small Premium Car* Lexus CT BMW 2 Series
Compact Car Toyota Prius Buick Verano, Nissan Leaf
Compact Premium Car Lexus ES Infiniti Q40, BMW 4 Series
Compact Sporty Car* Mini Cooper  
Midsize Car Chevrolet Malibu Toyota Camry, Buick Regal
Midsize Sporty Car* Dodge Challenger Chevrolet Camaro
Midsize Premium Car* Lexus GS BMW 5 Series
Large Car Buick LaCrosse Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus
Small SUV Hyundai Tucson Chevrolet Trax, Volkswagen Tiguan
Small Premium SUV Audi Q3 BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA
Compact SUV Chevrolet Equinox GMC Terrain, Ford Escape
Compact Premium SUV Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class Porsche Macan, Lexus NX
Midsize Pickup* Toyota Tacoma Nissan Frontier
Midsize SUV Chevrolet Traverse Buick Enclave (tied), Hyundai Santa Fe (tied), Toyota Venza (tied)
Midsize Premium SUV Lexus RX Lincoln MKX, Lexus GX
Minivan* Honda Odyssey Chrysler Town & Country
Large SUV* Ford Expedition Chevrolet Tahoe
Large Light Duty Pickup* Chevrolet Silverado Ford F-150
Large Heavy Duty Pickup* Ford Super Duty Chevrolet Silverado HD
*No other model in this segment performs above segment average.
There must be at least three models with 80% of market sales in any given award segment for an award to be presented. The Large Premium Car segment did not meet criteria to be award eligible, thus no awards will be issued.

Tech issues persist

Echoing previous findings, J.D. Power said issues pertaining to audio, communications, entertainment and navigation systems yielded the highest number of complaints, with built-in voice recognition and built-in Bluetooth connectivity as the most common problems.

All of the top 10 most dependable brands had dips in reported problems, except for Toyota, which posted four more compared with last year, when it ranked as the top-performing mass-market brand. Lexus experienced a decrease of 11 problems, and Porsche saw a decrease of 10.

The mass-market segment average of 143 problems per 100 vehicles; the luxury average was 136.

“Whether it’s GM or Hyundai-Kia or Ford, they’ve really made some great strides in recent years, just in the fundamental improvements in vehicle dependability,” Sargent said. “They’ve learned from their premium competitors and are doing a great job at catching up.”

Low performers

Chrysler sits at the bottom of the chart, at 211 problems, 33 percent more than last year. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had three brands in the bottom four: Jeep, Fiat and Chrysler. Last year, it had four of the bottom five, but Ram and Dodge moved up this year.

Even though Fiat finished third from last place this year, it still showed the best overall score improvement, with 106 fewer problems than last year, which propelled the brand out of last place.

Toyota Motor nabbed six of the 19 segment awards, while GM received five, and Ford received two. The Audi Q3 was the only model that garnered an award during its introduction year, J.D. Power said. Additionally, the Dodge Challenger, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Rio and Mercedes-Benz GLK class each earned one award.

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