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Buick, Jaguar overtake Lexus to rank at top of reliability survey

Chrissie Thompson

Automotive News | March 19, 2009 – 7:00 am EST


Buick, Jaguar overtake Lexus to rank at top of reliability survey

Buick and Jaguar shared first place for brands with the most-dependable vehicles in a study released today, ending Lexus’s 14-year reign.

Buick climbed from sixth place last year in market research firm J.D. Power and Associates’ Vehicle Dependability Study, and Jaguar soared from 10th. They were followed by Lexus, Toyota and Mercury in the survey of owners of 3-year-old vehicles.

Buick’s No. 1 ranking reflects General Motors’ efforts to shake a reputation of poor dependability, said David Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president of automotive research.

“Part of GM’s historical challenge has been that the customer’s perception of GM’s vehicles has been not in line with reliability. GM, as well as Ford, has made a lot of strides recently,” he said. “Maybe 10 or 15 years ago their vehicles weren’t as reliable as some of the imports, but I think today they’ve virtually caught up.”

Jaguar, sold by Ford to India’s Tata Motors last year, has fought similar stereotypes, Sargent said. In the U.S., the brand has had a reputation “of being somewhat unreliable.”

Original owners of Buick and Jaguar models reported an average of 122 problems per 100 vehicles, four fewer than Lexus. In compiling the rankings, J.D. Power used surveys taken in October of more than 46,000 owners of 2006 model-year vehicles.

Recession protection

Dependability is becoming more important to consumers as the recession stretches into its 16th month, Sargent said. Owners now keep their new vehicles for an average of 73 months, up from 66 in 2006, he said.

Toyota Motor Corp. led all automakers with 10 segment-leading vehicles (Scion xA; Toyota Prius, Solara, Highlander, Sequoia, Tundra; and Lexus ES 330, LS 430, SC 430, GX 470). The LS 430 sedan had the fewest problems — 61 — reported per 100 vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. followed with four segment winners (Ford Ranger; Mercury Grand Marquis; Lincoln Zephyr and Mark LT).

Other class leaders were made by Honda Motor Co. (Honda Element, Acura RL); GM (Buick LaCrosse); Chrysler LLC (Dodge Caravan); Nissan Motor Corp. (Nissan 350Z); and Mazda Motor Corp. (MX-5 Miata).

Below average

Six GM brands finished below the industry average of 170 problems per 100 vehicles.

The five brands at the bottom of the dependability rankings were all imports. Suzuki finished last; the next-worst was Volkswagen, below Land Rover, Isuzu and Mazda.

Study authors changed their methods slightly for this year’s version, their 19th iteration. They added and deleted questions about some components and reworded questions to ask if parts had “broken,” instead of just letting consumers call them problematic.

That means small changes in rankings like Lexus’ drop from first place are not significant, Sargent said. Buick tied Lexus for the top spot in the study released two years ago.

Consumer Reports has a similar study, which points to reliable used-vehicle models. In its annual April auto issue, the magazine said Toyota and Honda dominated its reliability rankings, based on vehicles from model years 1999 through 2008.

For model year 2006, the Lexus SC, Toyota Highlander and Toyota Prius earned the top three Consumer Reports reliability rankings, based on problems per 100 vehicles. Those vehicles all topped their segments in J.D. Power’s study.


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