Despite recalls, Chevrolet is No. 1 domestic brand for initial quality – Detroit Free Press

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chevrolet led all domestic brands in this year’s J.D. Power’s initial quality survey, despite the record wave of recalls — many of which focused on defective ignition switches in Chevrolet Cobalts from last decade.

Six 2014 GM models were ranked highest in their segment — the most of any automaker.

“This tells us that their quality is pretty good,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “General Motors has the most award winners, and they have the most vehicles finishing among the top three in their segments.”

But the survey only measures consumers’ impressions of new vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. It doesn’t reflect longer-term quality and reliability — J.D. Power conducts separate studies that analyze those. It was based on responses from 86,000 new car buyers who responded to an online survey in May.

Porsche, Jaguar and Lexus finished first, second and third among 32 brands in the study.

Sargent said problems people notice in the early weeks of owning a car quickly impact the likelihood they would buy that name again. For example, Power’s research shows owner loyalty slips from 57% to 53% among buyers who experience a single problem in their first year of ownership.

“This is worth literally billions of dollars to the automakers,” Sargent said. “Every percentage point lost of loyalty is hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The biggest surprise of this year’s survey is Hyundai, which had the fourth-best score, just ahead of Toyota.

Three Hyundai models — the Accent, Elantra and Genesis — were best in their segments. Kia — Hyundai’s sister company — was seventh overall, and the Kia Cadenza led the large car segment.

GM and Hyundai posting the most segment leaders was a change from the surveys in recent years.

“A few years ago, Toyota would win the most (segment awards) and Honda would win the second most, and others would split up what was left,” Sargent said.

Ford recovered modestly to 16th from 27th last year, when bad feedback on its MyFord Touch infotainment system hurt. Lincoln ranked 10th.

“It’s a lot better, it’s more stable, it’s more reactive and its simpler,” Sargent said of MyFord Touch.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles received some bad news. Chrysler and Dodge both improved compared with last year, and Ram matched the industry average (116 problems per 100 vehicles).

But Fiat, with only two models, came in last among 32 brands, and Jeep was second to last, despite strong sales.

Fiat’s score was a result of the poor performance of the 500L, a new vehicle launched last year.

“For the Fiat brand, customers are drawn to the unique Italian style, even though some of the European design features might prompt some owners to check more boxes on the (Initial Quality) survey,” Chrysler said in a statement.

Sargent said customers who are buying the Jeep Cherokee have been disappointed with how the transmission shifts.

“Cherokee was a big part of why Jeep slipped backwards,” he said.

According to Chrysler, “the issues identified in this survey have largely been addressed with software updates in newly built vehicles that are also available as a quick software flash for vehicles that were built during the survey period.”

Still, those problems could eventually haunt Jeep as Chrysler tries to expand its sales globally.

“We ask consumers what problem did you actually experience on your vehicle?” Sargent said. “And the vast majority of consumers — even if they had their vehicle recalled — have not experienced that actual problem.”

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