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J.D. Power's Quality Survey: Toyota Tumbles, GM Disappoints

Posted by: David Welch on June 17, 2010

You can’t hide from quality problems. Witness the results of the Initial Quality Study released today by J.D. Power. Toyota’s sudden-acceleration crisis—which forced the once-heralded carmaker to recall more than 8 million vehicles over the past year—resulted in its worst-ever performance in the survey. Toyota dropped from sixth place last year to 21st. Consumers complained in the survey about brake and floormat problems, which is what the recalls were mostly about. Last year, Toyota brand vehicles had 101 problems per 100 vehicles. This year, it rose to 117. No big surprise given the massive number of cars recalled.

What was more surprising is how poorly General Motors did. Cadillac tumbled from third place with 91 problems to a tie for 12th place with 111 problems. Chevrolet went from ninth to 12th, falling below the industry average. GMC went from 18th to 25th. Of GM’s four brands, only Buick improved. The survey tracks complaints during the first 90 days that a consumer owned the car. The problems can be anything from a mechanical breakdown to, say, too much wind noise to mundane things like the driver griping about the size of the cupholders.

What’s worrisome for GM is that the culprit happens to be the company’s newest models. Dave Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president of global vehicle research, said new models are often weaker in quality than cars that have been on the market for a few years. Carmakers have time to find glitches and work them out. Sargent says GM can easily improve its quality performance by patching up new models like the Cadillac SRX and Chevrolet Camaro. But this is terrible news for a GM management team that is trying to convince buyers that the company is new, improved and doing things differently. Some of GM’s new models are selling well; the Cadillac SRX, Chevy Equinox SUV and Camaro in particular are red hot. What better way to wow those new owners than sell them cars that they think are cool, and which end up being problem-free. The fact is that GM has been making quality strides. But until the company can follow rival Ford, which finished fifth and ahead of all other mass-market brands, GM will have something to prove instead of something to boast.

J.D. Power pointed out that as a group, Detroit’s Big Three carmakers did better than the foreign brands for the first time in the survey’s 24-year history. That is largely due to the fact that Ford made big gains and Toyota tumbled so far. The disappointing results at GM and Chrysler, whose Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands all scored below the industry average—say that much more work needs to be done before consumers will view American cars as equal or better than the imported brands.

Reader Comments

johnny d

June 17, 2010 6:17 PM who did good?


June 17, 2010 6:26 PM

I've been driving enthusiastically for 54 years. I've NEVER had a problem with a Porsche, a Mercedes,a Ford or a Lincoln. I've never NOT had problems with Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs or Cadillacs. Too bad, because GM, I think, makes the best LOOKING cars. I've never owned Chrysler products or a Buick.


June 17, 2010 6:46 PM

You have to realize how long it takes to turn quality issues around. GM had committed these faults probably during or even before the crisis, and they are now coming into fruition. They will be able to turn these around, and they will.

July 2, 2010 12:38 PM

An interesting observation is that domestic brands are improving as they are increasingly manufactured overseas and foreign brands are decreasing as they are increasingly manufactured in the states.

Is there some sort of correlation here?


July 30, 2010 1:07 PM

Do American workers take prinde in what they do or are they resentful of their treatment from management? If they are then companies, foreign and domestic are all committing the same sins of mismanagement of staff and by not enabling workers to make error free new models right out of the chute. Either the process is flawed or workers are just plum tired I guess.

Martin from LA

July 30, 2010 8:39 PM

Only the ownership has changed and top managemnt.
Same union same story.
Same factory same story.
These cars were designed when Rick Wagoneer was still managing the company.
I owned 2 GM made cars and there were a lot of problems. Nothing is going to change.

john rogerson

August 1, 2010 1:04 AM


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mike b.

August 9, 2010 1:38 PM

toyotas and hondas are still better than ford and gm! its a cultural philosphy that ford and gm are up against. japan considers it a dishonorable reflection on their country. japan imports everything and cannot afford to be wasteful and rely on brand loyality as american car co's. do. american co's were on a race to see how cheap they could make their cars before the america said "enough" i'll buy something that doen't fall apart after 100k miles. if your life depended on it would you buy a honda civic with 100k miles or a ford focus with 100k miles on it???

mike b.

August 9, 2010 2:02 PM

american car co's don't want to make a trouble free car. remember this if they did make cars that were as reliable there would no honda or toyota car comp. investing billions in this country. make all the excuses you want any country that put rovers on mars and a man on the moon 40 years ago can't make car as reliable as japan then your nieve.i asked my friend who owned an american dealership do you make more money selling or fixing cars? he smiled and said fixing them of course!!!


December 19, 2010 7:12 PM

recently purchased a 2011 cambry xle traded in xle 2005 new car did not include side molding nor factory installed alarm system additional $200.00 for the molding and $400.00 for the alarm system. wanted additional $200.00 if we wanted a different color that was not on their lot. Perhaps I should think twice before purchasing another Toyota.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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