JD Power: Initial quality problems increase with new tech; top trucks named

Updated Jun 29, 2014
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The number of problems experienced by new-vehicle owners has increased from the previous year, as automakers continued to be challenged when introducing sophisticated technologies in new vehicles, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study released Wednesday.

The study, now in its 28th year, examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

The 2014 Ford F-150 LD took top honors in the Large Light Duty Pickup category, while the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado HD was the top Large Heavy Duty Pickup. The 2014 Honda Ridgeline topped the Midsize Pickup list. The 2014 Initial Quality Study’s top-rated trucks, and links to the evaluations of the vehicles’ mechanical and design quality, are presented here.

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The study finds that overall initial quality averages 116 PP100, a 3 percent increase in problems from 113 PP100 in 2013. This year’s increase in problems follows a similar increase found in the J.D. Power U.S. 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study released in February, which measures problems experienced after three years of ownership.

The study identifies two primary causes of the increased problem levels in 2014. First, newly launched vehicles (those that are completely new to the market or have undergone major redesigns) continue to be more problematic than carryover vehicles (those that did not undergo any significant changes).

On average, newly launched vehicles experience 128 PP100, compared with 113 PP100 for carryover vehicles. The increase in problems among all-new vehicles is found mainly in the areas of voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing and audio systems.

“Automakers are trying to give consumers the new features and technology they want without introducing additional quality problems into their vehicles,” says David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “However, almost all automakers are struggling to do this flawlessly with some consumers indicating that the technology is hard to understand, difficult to use, or simply does not always work as designed.”

Additionally, some regions experienced increases in problem types associated with harsh weather. Consumers in the South and West regions of the country report the same level of problems as in 2013 (114 PP100).

In contrast, consumers in the Northeast and Midwest regions report 117 PP100 in 2014, compared with 112 PP100 in 2013. Most of this increase is found in the heating/ventilation/air conditioning, exterior and engine/transmission categories, three areas in which harsh weather conditions have an adverse effect on vehicles.

Based on the 2014 IQS, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • If you’re thinking about buying an all-new or extensively redesigned model but are concerned about the vehicle’s initial quality, consider waiting until its second year, by which time the manufacturer will likely have addressed any early issues.
  • Before adding a high-tech option, consider whether you’re likely to use it often enough to make the cost worthwhile, and find out to what degree the technology has been perfected.
  • Keep informed of which makes and models consistently win awards for quality and dependability, which is a good prognosticator of ownership satisfaction.