Report: Chevy has best pickups of all automakers

By Lisa Ray, Managing Editor, ClickOnDetroit.com, @ClickOnLisa, lray@wdiv.com
Published On: Jun 19 2013 01:35:57 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 19 2013 06:24:02 PM EDT
DETROIT -

According to a new report by J.D. Power, Chevrolet has the best pickups, with the Avalanche and Silverado.

Porsche is the top performer in an annual survey of new vehicle quality.

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J.D. Power questioned more than 83,000 U.S. car owners about problems with their 2013 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership.

In the results released Wednesday, Porsche, GMC, Lexus, Infiniti and Chevrolet owners reported the fewest problems. The worst performing brands were Scion, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Mini.

The top complaints this year involved voice recognition systems that didn't understand commands and Bluetooth systems that didn't connect to drivers' phones. Wind noise was also a big complaint.

Honda had the top-performing small car and small SUV, with the Honda Civic and Honda CR-V. The highest-ranking midsize car was the Toyota Camry.

The majority of problems owners experience with their new vehicle in the first 90 days of ownership are design-related rather than manufacturing defects. These design problems are far less likely to be successfully resolved at the dealership than are defects, according to the study.

The J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, which serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality, has been redesigned for 2013. The study has been enhanced to better measure the quality of today’s vehicles, particularly problems related to new technologies and features now being offered. In addition, the study, now in its 27th year, allows for more detailed feedback from new-vehicle owners.

Nearly two-thirds of the problems experienced in the first 90 days of ownership are related to the vehicle’s design, as opposed to components that malfunction. For example, the component may be working as designed, but owners deem it a problem because it may be difficult to understand or operate.

Because design problems are not the result of a breakdown or malfunction, just 9 percent of these problems are taken to a dealership within the first 90 days of ownership. When owners take their vehicle to a dealership for a design-related issue, the problem is fixed only 13 percent of the time. In contrast, 28 percent of owners who experience a defect or malfunction with their vehicle within the first 90 days of ownership take it to a dealership, and 42 percent of the time the dealership is able to fix the problem.

"Automakers are investing billions of dollars into designing and building vehicles and adding technologies that consumers desire and demand, but the risk is that the vehicle design, or the technology within the vehicle, in some cases may not meet customer needs," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "Keep in mind that automakers are trying to design vehicles that appeal to a broad array of consumers, and what works for the majority may not work for all. The successful companies will be those automakers that find a way to give customers the technology they want while at the same time making it sufficiently intuitive so all customers find it easy to use."

Overall initial quality for the industry averages 113 problems per 100 vehicles The study found that many of the problems owners have with their vehicle relate to the driver interface, which includes voice recognition or hands-free technology, Bluetooth pairing for mobile phones, and the navigation system, among others.

According to Sargent, some of these problems may be mitigated at the time of purchase by the salesperson explaining how to use the technology, and others may be remedied with software changes. However, features that are difficult for owners to operate, hard to understand, or inconveniently located in the vehicle likely will remain a problem for the life of the vehicle.

"Owners desire, and in some cases are demanding, more content in their new vehicles, especially technology-related features, and automakers are trying to provide it," said Sargent. "The majority of owners don’t experience problems, but those who do are frustrated. That’s understandable, especially when owners often keep their new vehicle for five years or more. In contrast, when consumers have a problem with their smartphone, they are likely to replace the phone much sooner."

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