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JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study Knocks Smaller Engines

By Clyde Hughes   |   Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 09:44 AM

Four-cylinder engines are getting better fuel consumption than larger vehicles but are reported to have more reliability problems, according to the latest J.D. Power Reliability Study released Wednesday.

The annual study reviews problems experienced by original 2011 model owners over a 12-month period. The overall dependability is determined by the number of problems experienced for every 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality. 

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J.D. Power reported that overall vehicle dependability averages 133 PP100, a 6 percent increase in problems from 126 PP100 in 2013. This marks the first time since the 1998 study that the average number of problems has increased. Four-cylinder and large diesel engines tended to be the most problematic in this year's study.

"Automakers are continually looking for ways to improve fuel economy, which is a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, particularly those buying smaller vehicles," David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "However, while striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality. Increases in such problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power indicate that this is a continuing challenge."

Sargent told the New York Times that customers are finding it difficult to transition from eight- and six-cylinder vehicles to four-cylinder vehicles.

"A lot of the root cause is software," Sargent said. "The engine and transmission are programmed to respond in a certain way to customer input. But it manifests itself as a mechanical problem." 

Sargent said in his statement that overall, 2011 proved to be a step back in dependability for automobile consumers.

"Until this year, we have seen a continual improvement in vehicle dependability," Sargent said. "However, some of the changes that automakers implemented for the 2011 model year have led to a noticeable increase in problems reported."

J.D. Power ranked Lexus the highest vehicle in dependability for a third consecutive year. General Motors topped all auto companies, with eight 2014 segment awards for its Buick Lucerne; Cadillac DTS; Cadillac Escalade; Chevrolet Camaro; Chevrolet Volt; GMC Sierra HD; GMC Sierra LD and GMC Yukon.

On the flipside, Ford had 140 problems for every 100 vehicles, which is 13 more than last year, and remains below the industry average of 133 problems, according to the J.D. Power survey. Ford's came in 17th place this year for most reliable among all automakers.

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