If you’re shopping for a luxury car made by Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche or Cadillac, you may have some additional peace of mind, as those brands topped the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, in that order. The study also indicates that there’s good news regardless of what kind of vehicle you plan to buy, as “vehicle manufacturers post the strongest improvement in initial quality since 2009 and are producing higher-quality vehicles than ever before.”
Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some room for improvement, as car owners are reporting more problems with audio, navigation and infotainment systems. "Until recently, this type of sophisticated technology was found primarily on high-end models," David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates, said in a press release. "However, over the past few years it has rapidly found its way into the automotive mainstream.” Sargent says that this year, more than 80 percent of car owners said they have “some form of hands-free technology” in their new vehicle.
Ford was hit hardest by these complaints, falling four spots to 27th place in initial quality. “It’s not that the problem is getting worse, it’s becoming more prevalent because they are introducing more vehicles with MyFord Touch,” says Sargent in an interview with The New York Times. “So the ranking could be more impacted this year because more vehicles have it.”
At the same time, other experts note that since the average age of trade-in vehicles is getting older, it’s taking more time for owners to get acclimated to the amount of tech inside their new cars. Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell says that “there's a natural learning curve for these drivers to get adjusted to these new features as they quickly emerge as standard technology in the marketplace.”
Chrysler Group still lagged behind much of the competition in initial quality, as Chrysler, Dodge and FIAT all ranked in the bottom 10. However, the automaker did show some improvement in some areas. “While Chrysler and Jeep brands remained below the industry average in 2012, Ram trucks were ranked better than average,” writes USA Today. Additionally, Dodge, which finished last in 2011, moved up five spots for 2012.
If you’re shopping for a specific type of car, J.D. Power says that your best bets include affordable small cars like the 2012 Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Mazda Mazda2, while good choices among affordable midsize cars include the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord. If you need more space, J.D. Power’s best-performing affordable large cars include the 2012 Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon and Chrysler 300, while sports cars like the Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Dodge Challenger rank highest in initial quality.
J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study is based on a survey of more than 74,000 owners of new 2012 vehicles after 90 days of ownership.
Shopping for a Lexus, Cadillac or another upscale midsize car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. You can also find the best local prices in the area by using our Best Price Program. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.