June 24, 2011 in City

Automobile quality dips in 2011

New and redesigned cars had most problems
Salvador Rodriguez Los Angeles Times
Ten best

The top 10 based on the least number of problems reported in the first three months of operation were: Lexus, Honda, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Porsche, Toyota, Infiniti, Cadillac and GMC.

LOS ANGELES – A key auto quality study has found that models that are new or redesigned for 2011 are less reliable than those introduced last year.

The newer models had 10 percent more problems on average than those introduced in 2010, according to the J.D. Power and Associates’ annual U.S. Initial Quality Study. The increase stemmed from manufacturers’ introducing more high-tech features and transmission systems designed to meet dueling consumer demand for better performance and fuel economy, the study concluded.

“Every time you put in new technology you’re adding one more thing that could possibly go wrong,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of vehicle research at J.D. Power.

Manufacturers have been introducing more multimedia technology, such as rearview cameras and hands-free, voice-activated systems. But some owners have reported those systems did not function properly or were not intuitive, the study found.

Hesitating engines and transmissions were another highly reported issue this year that Sargent said was a result of new software programming that makes vehicles constantly look for the most efficient gear to be in.

“Consumers are getting frustrated because it seems like their vehicles are always changing gears when they don’t need them to,” he said. “The software reacts very quickly, and sometimes it’s almost too clever for its own good.”

Among the automakers that did well in the study was Honda, which led the pack with seven segment awards, something that has only happened three times in the study’s history.

Sargent attributed it to Honda’s improving its line of already established cars and not introducing too many new models.

“All of Honda’s vehicles this year were not new,” he said. “They were carryovers from the previous years or just minor updates, and when you have that, that’s a perfect time when you would expect quality to be at its best.”

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