Initial Quality of New Vehicles On the Rise as Costs Lower

Lexus USA Newsroom

While there is no doubt that advances in technology and manufacturing have made it a very good time to be a consumer, it seems to be a particularly good time for those shopping for new vehicles. Allstate’s auto insurance division has gathered data from J.D. Power and Associates, and Kelley Blue Book, which shows that as a whole, cars are not only getting better, but are also more affordable when compared to the past several years.

J.D. Power noted that craftsmanship in today’s new vehicles is on the rise, increasing by 5% from last year in its 2012 Initial Quality Survey. The study surveyed new car buyers during their first year of ownership to not only gauge customer satisfaction, but also the build quality and reliability of the vehicle as well. The survey rates cars based on the amount of problems reported per 100 vehicles. Of the 34 different manufacturers ranked in the study, 26 showed improvement. Broken down by model, there were 185 new vehicle models studied, of which 65% scored higher than last year’s models. As far as specific brands, Lexus ranked highest, averaging a score of only 73 problems per 100 models. Other luxury brands also fared well in the rankings, claiming four out of the top five spots. Jaguar and Porsche tied for second, with Jaguar showing the most improvement of any brand, moving up from No. 20 last year. Cadillac claimed the fourth spot, while Honda ranked fifth, making it the only non-luxury brand to crack the top five.

The study also revealed that today’s buyers have a large variety of high-quality vehicles to choose from. Data suggested that quality took precedence over brand loyalty, as 14 different automakers received awards.

However, not all the data on new cars reflected positively. In-car technology, which has become a hot selling point used by practically every manufacturer, took a significant hit in quality. Problems experienced with audio, entertainment, and navigation systems increased by 8% compared to last year’s numbers, which J.D. Power noted as a trend over the past several surveys. While the numbers certainly indicate that quality has suffered, it also points to more complex audio and entertainment systems being installed across various models by a number of different manufacturers.

David Sargent , the vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, believes that the rapid advancements in technology have made in-car technology more available than ever. Sargent noted that until very recently, sophisticated technology such as high-end audio, Bluetooth, and navigation systems were only available to buyers in upscale vehicles. Today, these systems appear in vehicles at various price ranges, and at almost every level. In fact, more than 80% of owners indicated that their new vehicle had some form of hands-free technology. Sargent also believes that quality scores for in-car technology were particularly hard hit because as systems become more prevalent, consumer expectations that the systems will work effectively also rises.

Beyond overall vehicle quality scores, data from Kelley Blue Book revealed that consumers are spending, on average, $500 less for new vehicles than they were last year, particularly among Japanese brands.

According to Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s automotive insight division, the average Honda model is selling for nearly $1,200 less than last year’s models. Meanwhile, Subaru, Mazda, and Toyota were roughly $700-$800 more affordable. American manufacturers like Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors showed declines of less than $500.

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