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By Allen L Phillips

The J.D. Power and Associates' U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for 2014 included a surprise.  For the first time in 15 years the report, which surveys owners of three-year-old vehicles, found that vehicle dependability was suddenly getting worse.

J.D. Power tracks overall dependability of vehicles through a measure called “PP100”, or “problems experienced per 100 vehicles.” In the 10 years from 2003 to 2013 that number had dropped from 200 down to 126.  But 2014 numbers went up to 133 PP100. And this year the numbers jumped again up to 152 PP100, up 20% from 2013.

That increase comes as more technology is added to vehicles, such as collision avoidance, lane keeping, bluetooth, navigation and other driver aids like park assist and back up cameras.

When you look behind the totals at just engine and transmission problems, dependability has continued to improve, going from 26 PP100 to 24 PP100 between 2015 and 2016. That increased reliability is corroborated by Consumer Reports, which found engines, transmissions, suspension, exhaust, and fuel systems have experienced fewer repairs every year since 2007.

So while engines and transmissions become more and more reliable, vehicle owners are more and more displeased with the overall reliability of their vehicles.  As the push continues toward more autonomous cars, this problem will only get worse.  The simple gasoline powered car of yesterday is rapidly becoming a computer on wheels and component failures are more and more likely to occur in the high tech electronics that are supposed to make life on the road better and safer.

Still, Lexus leads the pack.  (See the report below.)  Buick has slipped ahead of Toyota to No. 3 behind Porsche and Chevrolet has managed a No. 5 ranking just ahead of Honda.

If you are contemplating a new car, you would be well served by contemplating this report.  The lower down the J.D. Power list your dream car is, the more your maintenance is going to cost.  That’s something to think about.

Source material is from an article entitled “Modern Maintenance” by Travis Bean published in Ratchet & Wrench magazine.

2016 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study


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