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Lexus tops vehicle dependability study 

Image: Lexus
Barely half of the Lexus owners surveyed reported any problems at all.Toyota

Today’s vehicles are more reliable than ever, according to a new study, though Toyota remains the king when it comes to long-term dependability.

Nonetheless, the gap between import and domestic brands continues to close, with General Motors giving close chase to Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus, finds the J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study.

“The continuous improvement in long-term dependability means consumers should have more confidence in three-year-old vehicles, whether they are keeping their current vehicle or shopping for a used car, truck, crossover or SUV,” says David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates, or JDPA.

Based on the responses from 37,000 owners of 2010-model cars, trucks and crossovers, the annual study shows that the number of problems being reported has fallen five percent since the previous report, known by the shorthand VDS. On average, there were 126 problems for every 100 vehicles, or 126 PP100 in Power-speak, down from 132 in the 2012 study. That’s the lowest figure since Power launched the widely-quoted measure of vehicle reliability in 1989.

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Domestic makers have traditionally lagged behind foreign-based rivals but the gap has narrowed sharply for 2013, Detroit makers averaging a score of 133 compared to 123 for imports. The higher the score the more the problems. As recently as 2011, the gap was 18 points, Power points out.

There is a frequent, though not absolute, link between the way individual brands perform in Power’s short-term quality studies, such as the Initial Quality Study. Toyota’s Lexus routinely leads the IQS and it is tops in the 2013 VDS, as well, with a benchmark 57 problems per 100. In other words, barely half of the Lexus owners surveyed reported any problems at all.

Porsche came in second, followed by Lincoln, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz to round out the Top Five. Meanwhile, Chrysler’s truck arm, the Ram brand, posted the biggest improvement of any marque, its score improving by 52 PP100.

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In terms of individual product segments, Lexus led in two, with the Lexus ES350 named tops in the Entry Premium Car category, while its RX model led among Midsize Premium Crossover/SUV models. Toyota took seven segment awards overall, including its Scion and Toyota brands, more than any other automaker.

But General Motors was second on the list with four individual segment awards for models including the Buick Lucerne sedan and the big Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. American Honda took two segment wins, with Audi, Ford, Hyundai, Mazda and Nissan also grabbing awards.

The 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study delivered some significant surprises, most notably by revealing that conventional wisdom is wrong when it comes to the reliability of all-new products. “The perception that all-new or redesigned models can’t be as dependable as those that have been on the market for a year or more is not accurate,” Sargent stresses, adding, “The rapid improvement in fundamental vehicle dependability each year is more than offsetting any initial glitches that all-new or redesigned models may have.”

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The upward trend in vehicle dependability is certainly good for those looking to buy a new vehicle. But it’s perhaps even better news for those in the market for a “nearly-new” vehicle.

“If you can’t afford a new vehicle, or simply don’t want one, you should feel confident when buying a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle,” notes a Power statement.

There has been a significant increase in demand for CPO vehicles in recent years. Most makers now offered a certified used car program in which models coming off lease undergo extensive inspections and, if necessary, repairs. They are typically backed by like-new warranties.