At first glance, Toyota and Lexus look to be the clear winners in the latest J.D. Power and Associates study of car dependability.
Along with Porsche, they made up the top brands with fewest problems per 100 vehicles over the first three years of ownership, according to the annual J.D. Power dependability study. (The study researched the dependability of 2010 model year vehicles.)
But Toyota owners actually reported more problems in this year’s study than they did a year ago – an average of 112 problems per 100 vehicles compared with 104 last year. Porsche also slipped, climbing to 98 from 94.
A deeper dive into the numbers by Morgan Stanley Research analyst Adam Jonas shows that some of poorly performing brands -- Chrysler, Kia and GMC -- are improving at a faster rate than some of their rivals.
Chrysler Group’s Ram division logged a huge improvement. It was 10th in the overall rankings but No. 1 in terms of year-to-year improvement. Jonas noted that the 2010 Ram had 122 problems per 100 vehicles in the new study, down 30% from 174 in the prior year.
In the overall rankings, Chrysler finished 26 of the 32 brands with its 2010 cars and trucks logging 153 problems per 100 vehicles during the first three years of ownership. That was 49 fewer problems than the 192 reported for its 2009 vehicles.
Looking back another year, Chrysler has seen even better improvement. Its 2010 rating is a 24% drop from 2008 models, which experienced 202 problems per 100 vehicles.
The GMC brand has also seen a big drop. Its rating dipped from 184 problems per 100 vehicles in the 2008 model year to 134 for the 2010 model year, a 27% improvement.
Taking an even longer view makes Lexus' position as one of the most reliable brands even more impressive. Lexus cars from the 2006 model year had on average 126 problems per 100 vehicles, according to J.D. Power. By the 2010 model year that had plunged to an industry-best 71 problems, a 44% decline. Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand.
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