Twenty-five of 36 vehicle brands have improved in long-term dependability in 2010, compared with their performance in 2009, continuing a steady trend of industry-wide improvement. However, for some of these brands, consumer perceptions have not kept pace with their actual performance, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) released on March 18.

The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2007 model year) vehicles, includes 198 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. Overall dependability is determined by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

The Vehicle Dependability Study is used extensively by vehicle manufacturers worldwide to help design and build better vehicles - which typically translates to higher resale values - and by consumers to help them make more-informed choices for both new and used vehicle purchases. According to J.D. Power and Associates, among new-vehicle shoppers, perception of quality and dependability is the most influential factor in their decision to purchase a specific vehicle model.

The study finds that several brands that perform well in long-term dependability in 2010 are avoided at relatively high rates due to consumer concerns about dependability(1). Among brands included in VDS, Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai, Lincoln and Mercury have the greatest lags between dependability performance and consumer perception.

"Producing vehicles with world-class quality is just part of the battle for automakers; convincing consumers to believe in their quality is equally as important," said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates. "It takes considerable time to positively change consumer perceptions of quality and dependability - sometimes a decade or more - so it is vital for manufacturers to continually improve quality and also to convince consumers of these gains."

According to Sargent, approaches that can help reinforce perceptions of high quality in consumers' minds include: providing extended warranties, which demonstrates a brand's faith in its products; incorporating features, materials and finishes in vehicles that have a rich feel; and ensuring that new models launch with better quality than their predecessors. In addition, automakers need to increase communication efforts about their high quality and dependability through social media channels such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, as well as through traditional channels.

Toyota continues to perform well in long-term dependability and garners four segment awards--more than any other nameplate in 2010 - for the Highlander, Prius, Sequoia and Tundra. Honda receives three segment awards for the CR-V, Fit and Ridgeline. Lincoln captures two awards for the Mark LT and MKZ. In addition, Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Mercury each receive a model segment award.

Porsche leads the overall nameplate rankings in 2010, which is consistent with its performance in the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Initial Quality Study, which measures new-vehicle quality at 90 days of ownership. Lincoln improves by six rank positions from 2009 to follow Porsche in the nameplate rankings. Rounding out the top five nameplates are Buick, Lexus and Mercury. In addition, seven of the 10 models with the lowest incidence of problems in the industry are from Ford and General Motors, including the 2007 model-year Buick Lacrosse, Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, Ford Five Hundred, Lincoln MKZ, Mercury Milan, and Mercury Montego. The Cadillac DTS has the fewest problems in the industry, with just 76 problems per 100 vehicles. This marks the first time in more than a decade that a model from a domestic automaker has achieved the lowest PP100 score in the Vehicle Dependability Study.

Overall vehicle dependability has improved by 7 percent in 2010 to an average of 155 PP100, compared with 167 PP100 in 2009(2) - a rate that is consistent with historical industry gains. In addition to the improvement in overall dependability, the rate of component replacement has also been reduced from 2009. Approximately 65 percent of owners indicate they replaced a vehicle component in 2010, compared with 68 percent in 2009.

"The improvements in long-term dependability and component replacement rates are good news for both consumers and manufacturers," said Sargent. "Manufacturers benefit from lower warranty expenses, while consumers incur lower maintenance and repair costs, as well as less inconvenience."

The study also finds that long-term dependability has a significant positive effect on repurchase intent. Among owners who say they did not experience problems with their vehicle, 43 percent indicate they "definitely will" repurchase their current brand. This figure declines to 28 percent among owners who say they experienced at least one problem with their vehicle.

The 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 52,000 original owners of 2007 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded between October and December 2009.

Find more detailed findings on vehicle dependability as well as model photos and specs by reading an article and reviewing brand and segment dependability ratings at JDPower.com.

(1) Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Avoider Study

(2) Due to a change in the problem battery in 2010, PP100 scores for 2009 have been adjusted to allow for comparison with 2010 PP100 scores.

2010 Nameplate Ranking
  Problems per 100 Vehicles


  Porsche                                  110
  Lincoln                                  114
  Buick                                    115
  Lexus                                    115
  Mercury                                  121
  Toyota                                   128
  Honda                                    132
  Ford                                     141
  Mercedes-Benz                            142
  Acura                                    143
  Hyundai                                  148
  Cadillac                                 150
  Infiniti                                 150
  Subaru                                   155
  Industry Average                         155
  SAAB                                     158
  Saturn                                   164
  BMW                                      165
  GMC                                      165
  Chrysler                                 166
  Kia                                      167
  Volvo                                    167
  HUMMER                                   169
  Jaguar                                   175
  Chevrolet                                176
  Nissan                                   180
  Audi                                     182
  Dodge                                    190
  Pontiac                                  192
  Mazda                                    195
  Scion                                    201
  Mitsubishi                               202
  MINI                                     203
  Jeep                                     222
  Volkswagen                               225
  Suzuki                                   253
  Land Rover                               255

NOTE: Isuzu is included in the study but not ranked due to small sample size.

Top Three Models per Segment
  Car Segments



  Sub-Compact Car *
  -----------------
  Highest Ranked: Honda Fit
  Toyota Yaris

  Compact Car
  -----------
  Highest Ranked: Toyota Prius
  Toyota Corolla
  Pontiac Vibe

  Compact Sporty Car
  ------------------
  Highest Ranked: Mazda MX-5 Miata
  Saturn SKY
  Pontiac Solstice Convertible

  Midsize Sporty Car
  ------------------
  Highest Ranked: Chevrolet Monte Carlo
  Toyota Solara
  Ford Mustang

  Midsize Car
  -----------
  Highest Ranked: Buick LaCrosse
  Mercury Milan
  Honda Accord

  Large Car
  ---------
  Highest Ranked: Mercury Montego
  Buick Lucerne (tie)
  Ford Five Hundred (tie)

  Compact Premium Sporty Car*
  ---------------------------
  Highest Ranked: BMW Z4

  Entry Premium Vehicle
  ---------------------
  Highest Ranked: Lincoln MKZ
  Acura TSX
  Cadillac CTS

  Midsize Premium Car
  -------------------
  Highest Ranked: Audi A6
  Lexus ES 350
  Cadillac STS (tie)
  Infiniti M-Series (tie)

  Large Premium Car*
  ------------------
  Highest Ranked: Cadillac DTS
  Lexus LS 460

  Premium Sporty Car*
  -------------------
  Highest Ranked: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
  Porsche 911

  *No other model in this segment performs above the segment average.


  Top Three Models per Segment
  Truck Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV) Segments



  Compact MAV
  -----------
  Highest Ranked: Honda CR-V
  Subaru Forester
  Hyundai Tucson

  Midsize MAV
  -----------
  Highest Ranked: Toyota Highlander
  Toyota 4Runner
  Ford Freestyle

  Large MAV
  ---------
  Highest Ranked: Toyota Sequoia
  GMC Yukon
  Ford Expedition

  Large Pickup
  ------------
  Highest Ranked: Toyota Tundra
  Ford F-150 LD
  Chevrolet Silverado Classic HD

  Midsize Pickup
  --------------
  Highest Ranked: Honda Ridgeline
  Dodge Dakota
  Ford Ranger

  Midsize Van
  -----------
  Highest Ranked: Ford Freestar
  Toyota Sienna
  Buick Terraza (tie)
  Chrysler Town & Country (tie)

  Midsize Premium MAV
  -------------------
  Highest Ranked: Lexus GX 470
  Lexus RX
  Infiniti FX-Series

  Large Premium MAV
  -----------------
  Highest Ranked: Lincoln Mark LT
  Lincoln Navigator
  Cadillac Escalade EXT


NOTE: For a segment award to be issued, there must be at least three models with sufficient sample that comprise 80 percent of market sales within an award segment. There is only one large van model with sufficient sample size, thus no large van awards have been presented.