Lincoln received the highest score for long-term durability among all vehicle brands in the annual J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS).
The study, which measures problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old (2008 model year) vehicles, includes 202 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle.
According to the study, overall vehicle dependability has improved from 2010, with automakers succeeding in reducing problem rates in many traditional areas. There were some challenges in overcoming problems with newer technologies and features, though.
The VDS is used extensively by vehicle manufacturers worldwide to help design and build better vehicles – which typically translates to higher resale values and higher customer loyalty.
“Automakers, as a whole, have made significant improvements in reducing traditional problems, particularly with vehicle interiors; engines and transmissions; and steering and braking during the past several years,” said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates.
“However, as manufacturers add new features and technologies to satisfy customer demand and new legislation, they face the potential for introducing new problems.”
According to Sargent, as newer technologies become more widespread, enhancing the dependability of these features has become an important point of differentiation among automakers.
The study finds that while domestic brands have closed the gap in initial quality with import brands, there is still a considerable difference between the two in vehicle dependability, with import brands outperforming domestic brands in 2011.
This is consistent with findings of the 2008 Initial Quality Study, which examined the models included in the 2011 VDS after 90 days of ownership. While domestic brand cars have fewer problems on average than import brand cars, trucks and crossover vehicles of import brands have considerably fewer problems than those of domestic brands.
In addition to affecting brand image and brand loyalty, long-term dependability also has a notable effect on dealership service and customer service spending.
As the number of problems experienced increases, owners are increasingly likely to use non-dealer service facilities for paid service work. In addition, as the number of problems increases, the percentage of owners who say they “definitely will” return to their dealer for service diminishes. Among owners who indicate they have experienced no problems, 76 percent indicate they “definitely will” return to the dealer for paid service. This proportion decreases to 42 percent among owners who say they experienced six or more problems.
Lincoln, Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota rounded out the top 5, while MINI took last place.
The 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 43,700 original owners of 2008 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded between October and December 2010.