NEWSTREAM — In a market of ever increasing quality expectations by consumers, the automotive industry improved initial quality by 10 percent over 2001, the largest quality improvement for the industry since 1997, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 Initial Quality StudySM released on May 30, 2002. Initial vehicle quality has improved by 24 percent over the past five years.
“This kind of improvement in quality doesn’t happen by accident,” said Brian Walters, director of product research at J.D. Power and Associates. “It takes a concerted effort by the designers, engineers and assembly line workers of both manufacturers and their suppliers. Initial quality is an important driver to customer satisfaction with the ownership experience and has far-reaching impact on brand reputation.”
Toyota Motor Sales models virtually sweep the seven truck segments, with the exception of the full-size SUV category, which is led by the Ford Expedition.
“With truck sales now surpassing 50 percent of the light-vehicle market, truck quality is critical to automakers,” said Walters. “Toyota Motor Sales’ consistency in building truck models with high initial quality certainly gives them an advantage.”
Of the 16 segments included in the study, Toyota and Lexus models lead nine segments, the most earned by a corporation in 2002. General Motors Corporation is the best-performing domestic manufacturer in the study, with four models earning top rankings, including the competitive premium midsize car segment. Ford Motor Company, which includes Mazda, tops three segments.
In addition to having a number of models topping segments in initial quality, Toyota Motor Sales and General Motors Corporation have both demonstrated above-average increases in quality, improving by 31 and 30 percent over five years, respectively.
Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai are the most improved corporations in 2002, improving by 21 and 19 percent, respectively, over 2001. Hyundai Motor America has demonstrated the largest five-year initial quality improvement at 42 percent. Other above-average five-year quality improvements include American Isuzu (39%), Mitsubishi Motor Sales (38%) and DaimlerChrysler (27%).
“Consumers have come to expect that the initial quality of their new vehicle will exceed that of their previous vehicle,” said Walters. “If a manufacturer is not continuously improving its quality at a rate that meets or exceeds the industry average, it could be losing a quality edge to its competitors.”
At the model level, the Chevrolet Malibu made the biggest quality gain over the past five years, improving by 58 percent, followed by the Buick Century, Chevrolet Corvette and the Lexus GS Sedan, each having improved by 49 percent.
Historically, it is unusual for an all-new model to top its segment in initial quality. However, the Ford Thunderbird debuts with an impressive top ranking in the competitive entry luxury segment. The Thunderbird is Ford’s best-performing initial quality model in 2002.
Car models ranking highest in their segment are:
Compact Car: Toyota Corolla and Toyota Prius (tie)
Entry Midsize Car:: Chevrolet Malibu
Premium Midsize Car: Buick Century
Full-Size Car: Buick LeSabre
Entry Luxury Car: Ford Thunderbird
Mid Luxury Car: Lexus GS 300/GS 430
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS 430
Sporty Car: Mazda Miata
Premium Sports Car: Chevrolet Corvette
Light-truck models ranking highest in their segment are:
Compact Pickup: Toyota Tacoma
Full-Size Pickup: Toyota Tundra
Entry SUV: Toyota RAV4
Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander
Full-Size SUV: Ford Expedition
Luxury SUV: Lexus LX 470
Compact Van: Toyota Sienna
2002 IQS Assembly Plant Awards
Toyota and General Motors dominate the plant awards for vehicles produced for the U.S. marketplace. Toyota’s Tahara, Japan, car plant, which produces the Lexus GS 300/430 and the Lexus LS 430, receives the platinum award for best worldwide plant quality. Two other Toyota plants in Japan also earn awards in the Asia Pacific region.
Effectively, General Motors sweeps the plant awards for North/South America, including a tie for bronze by its plant in Lansing, Mich., and the NUMMI plant, which is a joint venture between GM and Toyota. BMW receives the top two awards in the European region, with DaimlerChrysler earning the bronze.
The 2002 Initial Quality Study is based on responses from nearly 65,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2002 model-year cars and trucks surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study, now in its 16th year, is considered the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality. Industry initial quality stands at 133 problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles, a 14 PP100 improvement over 2001.
Printed in Volume 1 Issue 10