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Improving Ford, GM need to get quality message across

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Improving Ford, GM need to get quality message across



General Motors and Ford are giving Toyota even tougher competition when it comes to long-term quality -- a critical consideration for car buyers.

The two Detroit automakers delivered a strong performance in the 2010 vehicle dependability study from J.D. Power and Associates, which measures 198 different problems in 3-year-old models.

All of Ford's three brands ranked among the Top 10 and GM's Buick placed third, tying Toyota's Lexus.

What's more, the Cadillac DTS made by GM was named the top-ranked vehicle in the study, unseating the Lexus LS. In fact, three of the top-five rated vehicles are made by GM.

"It is the first time in more than a decade that a domestic brand vehicle has been the top-rated vehicle," said David Sargent, J.D. Power's vice president of global vehicle research.

For years, Detroit automakers have improved in shorter-term quality studies. Now, that seems to be translating into cars that better withstand the test of time.

All of Chrysler's three brands, however, were ranked below average. Japanese automaker Toyota, which continues to be dogged by unintended acceleration and other quality issues, slipped two spots to sixth place.

Perception gap

Consumers continue to avoid automotive brands that perform well in J.D. Power and Associates' long-term dependability survey -- evidence, the firm says, of the nagging perception gap that has challenged Detroit automakers for years.

Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai, Lincoln and Mercury have the greatest lags between dependability performance and consumer perception, said David Sargent, J.D. Power's vice president of global vehicle research.

Overall, vehicle dependability improved by 7% in 2010, according to the J.D. Power annual vehicle dependability study, which measures the number of problems experienced by the owners of 2007 model year cars and trucks.

The average industry score improved to 155 problems per 100 vehicles, down from 167 last year.

Porsche, the No. 1 brand in the study, had 110 problems per 100 vehicles, an improvement over last year, when Buick and Jaguar tied for first with 120 problems per 100 vehicles.

Ford and General Motors posted impressive gains in this year's study, even though they might not always be recognized by consumers.

However, George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, an automotive research and consulting firm, said Ford is making progress, in part because of its ability to survive without asking for emergency federal loans last year.

"The perception of Ford seems to be increasing by leaps and bounds," Peterson said. "People are still upset that GM went into bankruptcy and took their money."

This year, J.D. Power ranked all three of Ford's brands among the top 10 in the firm's long-term quality study. Also, four Ford, Lincoln or Mercury models finished first in their vehicle class.

Bennie Fowler, Ford's group vice president of global quality, said the perception of Ford's quality will continue to improve as long as the company's quality continues to improve.

"What we know at Ford is you can't fool the customers," Fowler said. "You have to be consistent over time."

Lori Cumming, GM's executive director of global product development quality, also expects the perception of GM's quality to improve over time.

"The way we can do that is to just keep on launching great vehicles," Cumming said. "Results like this are very helpful."

This year, GM's Buick brand finished in third place and the Cadillac DTS was the top-rated vehicle in the entire study, beating the Lexus LS, which has finished first for the past several years.

The Cadillac DTS had the fewest problems of any car in the industry with just 76 per 100 vehicles.

"We are also excited that we have three of the top-five performing vehicles," Cumming said.

But while GM had bright spots, its Chevrolet brand, which is one of the four core brands the company decided to keep after it emerged from bankruptcy last year, received a score of 176, or 21 below average.

Sargent said Chevrolet's performance in the long-term study is likely to improve over the next several years because the brand's scores have been improving in another study that measures quality over a shorter time frame.

"We've seen substantial improvements for all four brands they are keeping," Sargent said. "They are heading in the right direction."

Toyota, which typically has outperformed all other manufacturers, saw its results slip this year.

"Toyota has hit kind of a plateau on reliability and dependability," Sargent said.

Chrysler, meanwhile, continued to struggle. All three of its brands scored below average.

"Clearly, they have a lot of work to do," Sargent said. "They are working hard on it. They are very smart people and are dedicated to fixing it."



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I think Ford quality is not any better or worse than it has been the last year or two. The key improvment on all fronts for them have been their marketing.

GM has had a better Turbo Direct Injection engine longer than than Ford but how many in the general public know about the Ecotech DI Turbo vs the Eco Boost.

GM has the qulity but never really had the marketing. They now not only have to fight off the stigma of quality which has been vastly improved but also the Chapter 11 stigma.

When it comes to qulity often people see and report what they want to report. Often I see many of the claimed high quality cars with qulity issues. I have friends who make a good living off of fixing Toyota's and Honda's. There once was a time the gap was large but anymore there is no gap accept maybe with Chrysler and a few other low cost off brands. Cars are mechinical and made buy men with the lowest parts contract bidder. Things are going to happen.

Today qulity differance is in the touch, feel and sound of a car. The precieved qulity goes beyond what reality presents.

Edited by hyperv6
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