Lexus tops vehicle dependability study for 7th straight year

Lexus is the most dependable vehicle brand for the seventh consecutive year in J.D. Power's annual survey.

Porsche, Buick, Infiniti and Kia round out the top five brands in the survey, followed by Chevrolet, Hyundai, BMW, Toyota and Lincoln.

The worst performers were Chrysler, Land Rover, Fiat, Jeep, Cadillac, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Ram, Dodge and Volvo.

The survey measures problems that vehicle owners experience after three years of ownership. For this year's survey, J.D. Power collected responses from 36,896 original owners of 2015 model year vehicles.

The overall dependability of vehicles increased this year for the first time since 2013, thanks to improving quality. J.D. Power says customers complain most frequently about problems with voice recognition technology and Bluetooth connectivity.

The survey also says:

— Toyota Motor Corp., which owns the Lexus and Toyota brands, had six vehicles rank at the top of their segments, the most of any company. Winners include the Toyota Prius, which was the top compact car, and the Lexus RX, which was the top midsize SUV.

— Older models tend to do better in the rankings than new ones, since automakers have more time to work out kinks the longer a model is on the market. The Audi Q3 small SUV was the only new-for-2015 vehicle to get a segment-level award.

— Infiniti was the biggest climber in the rankings, moving from 29th in 2017 to fourth this year. Fiat, Nissan, Ford, Kia and Dodge also showed significant improvements.

— The industry average score was 142 reported problems per 100 vehicles. Lexus had 99 reported problems while Chrysler had 211.

The survey found the gap between premium and mass-market brands has narrowed significantly. Mainstream brands now have 143 problems per 100 cars, just seven more than premium models.

“High quality is not the preserve of luxury brands,” Dave Sargent, vice president for global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a phone interview. “Manufacturers are making their mass-market cars more dependable and reliable.”

The narrowing gap between luxury and non-luxury brands comes as premium carmakers stuff their models with more and more technology—add-ons customers love until they act up. In-car tech, like entertainment, Bluetooth and navigation systems, cause the most problems, the study found.

“Luxury cars tend to have a lot of features,” Sargent said, adding that when it comes to reliability, “less stuff is better.”

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