The results of the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS) are in, and for the first time since 1998, overall vehicle dependability has declined. "Until this year, we have seen a continual improvement in vehicle dependability," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "However, some of the changes that automakers implemented for the 2011 model year have led to a noticeable increase in problems reported."
According to J.D. Power research, the decline in overall vehicle dependability is largely due to an increase in owner complaints about 4-cylinder engines and their transmissions, as well as the large diesel engines commonly installed in full-size, heavy-duty pickup trucks. Additionally, vehicle owners cite an increase in problems with infotainment systems and climate control systems, and in particular with hands-free connectivity.
Dependability has not declined for all brands, though. Listed below, in order of most improved to least improved, are the 10 vehicle brands that did not contribute to an overall reduction in industry dependability for 2011 model-year vehicles. Keep in mind, however, that several of the brands listed below, in spite of their improvements, still rank below industry average.
1. Land Rover
Land Rover improves the dependability of its 2011 models by 41 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in the 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study. The increase means that Land Rover is no longer the least dependable brand (it ranked last in the 2013 VDS), and now ranks higher than Dodge and Mini.
On the strength of a significant improvement in dependability for its volume-selling model, the Jaguar XF sedan, the Jaguar brand improves by 32 PP100 this year. Among all brands included in the 2014 VDS, Jaguar now ranks 13th (out of 31).
Cadillac improves its overall dependability by 21 PP100 to make it the third most dependable brand in the 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study. Two of its models receive dependability awards this year--the DTS sedan and the Escalade--and the volume-selling model, the CTS, performs above the Compact Premium Car segment average.
Volkswagen has launched TV commercials touting its dependability, and the brand certainly has made some significant improvements in that regard. However, the German brand still ranks below industry average. In this year's Vehicle Dependability Study, the VW brand improves its performance by 16 PP100 compared with last year. Among all brands included in the study, Volkswagen ranks 24th.
Thanks to a decrease of 12 PP100, Mitsubishi improves its overall brand ranking from 29th in last year's study to 26th this year.
6. Acura (tie)
With an 11 PP100 improvement, Acura rises from its eighth-ranked position in last year's Vehicle Dependability Study to the fourth-ranked position this year, behind Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac. The 2011 Acura RDX receives a dependability award in the Compact Premium CUV segment this year.
6. Mercedes-Benz (tie)
Mercedes-Benz matches Acura's improvement of 11 PP100 in the 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study. Overall, Mercedes is now the second most-dependable brand of vehicle, though it still trails Lexus by 36 PP100.
With an improvement of 10 PP100, Infiniti jumps 10 positions in terms of overall brand rank in this year's Vehicle Dependability Study, rising to 10th position from 20th position.
Dodge improves its dependability with its 2011 model-year vehicles, demonstrated by a 9 PP100 decrease as a brand. However, Dodge remains near the bottom of the brand rankings, positioned higher than Mini but below all other nameplates.
Buick rises one rank position in the 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study, from sixth position last year to fifth this year, thanks to an overall improvement of 6 PP100.