2013 JD Power Initial Quality Survey Results – GM Is Rising, Ford Is Falling Fast, and Toyota is Still Great

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JD Power’s Initial Quality Survey is an excellent tool for evaluating the relative quality of a manufacturer’s products, especially if you look at the data they generate over a period of time.

JD Power 2013 Initial Quality Study Results

JD Power’s 2013 Initial Quality Data is Out – click the graphic to see the original press release.

For 2013, the results are in, and the big winner is GM, as both the GMC and Chevy brands finished with above-average quality. The big loser? Ford, which finished near the back of the pack…and who seems to have a growing quality problem.

Toyota, of course, maintained their record of above-average quality.

Historical Performance Is Key

It’s folly to look at one year of JD Power Quality Study results and form a conclusion. New models can throw off a brand’s rating pretty dramatically, especially if that brand has a limited line-up (which is what happened to Scion and Fiat this year, the lowest ranked brands on the 2013 survey).

However, if you take the time to evaluate a manufacturer’s performance over a period of years, you develop a good understanding of the manufacturer’s direction: are they improving, declining, or simply maintaining?

Looking at the results for the last 5 years:

We see the following trends:

  • Toyota is trending upwards. Since they’ve been above-average in 4 out of 5 years, we have pretty strong evidence that Toyota quality is universally excellent.
  • Ford is trending downwards. They’ve brought out a lot of new products over the last 3 years – and their ratings have taken a hit because of the MyFordTouch debacle – but this clear negative quality trend should give Ford truck buyers pause.
  • GM quality is quickly trending upwards. Considering that GMC was the 2nd best brand in the 2013 survey (and that Chevy placed just ahead of Toyota), it seems likely that things have changed for the better at GM. Having said that, many of GM’s products are old, and older products tend to have higher quality…it will be interesting to see what happens to GMs ratings next year.
  • Ram quality is trending slightly upwards, but still below-average. No surprises here, Chrysler and quality are rarely mentioned in the same sentence.
  • Nissan quality is falling nearly as fast as Ford quality, at least according to the linear regression I did. I’m thinking their data is too noisy to trend.
  • Industry quality is steady…if you can build a vehicle with fewer than 112 problems per 100 copies, you’re going to do good on JD Power’s Initial Quality Survey.

I’ve plotted each truck brand’s problem’s per 100 vehicles (PP100) rating over the last 5 years of data below, as well as the industry average, and then created trend lines for each brand via linear regression.

JD Power Initial Quality Ratings for Truck Brands, from 2009-2013.

JD Power Initial Quality Ratings for Truck Brands, from 2009-2013. Graph includes trend lines, so you might want to click for a larger view.

NOTE: I’m averaging the rating for GMC and Chevy in the graph above, as I just don’t think it’s fair to consider these brands separately when they’re carbon copies of one another.

Suffice to say, the JD Power data tells us that Toyota is always a safe bet, GM quality is officially above-average, and Ford quality is on a dangerous path towards bad. I must admit I wouldn’t have predicted Ford’s poor performance on initial quality, but the data is pretty clear. As for Nissan and Ram, there’s nothing to be proud of here…which is why their trucks are probably so inexpensive.

Comments? Ford seems like they’re in a bit of trouble here, no?

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  1. LJC says:

    Sorry, most of this data is skewed. I’d like to see these numbers segregated into vehicle class like sub compact, compact, …, and passenger light truck. That way one could do a proper comparison. For example, a Porsche Cayenne, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Lexus LX570. I suspect the Land Cruiser would fair much better than one is lead to believe from this “one size fits all” representation.

    There are other way to slice up the data, like price range, US parts content, place of assembly, how many humans were part of the manufacturing process just to name a few.

  2. Brian J says:

    …and on the opposite end is Toyota-owned, designed, and built Scion trailing the group. I would argue that these numbers are probably not representative of true reliability. If you want to know if a manufacturer is building junk, then you should look at the number/type/length of repair of warranty claims per make/model. Real objective data. Not just “my car had a glitch and now I get to tell the world.” JD Power has never asked me about any of my new car purchases.

  3. toyrulz says:

    Agreed. I heard that JD intital quality was heavily biased due to owner expectations – meaning lexus and toyota owners expect high quality and have vehicles in quick for small things where other brand’s (say kia) owners may have lower expectations and put up with similar issues rather than complain. My neighbour said he has no issues with his BMW, but suspects dealer checks/does stuff under waranty while in for oil change without his knowing.

    My boss asked me why a Toyota over a Hyundai – I said quality and reliability – he said name an example – I said stainless steel exhaust, I have never had an issue with exhaust on a Toyota – he said he didn’t know exausts could be had in stainless and thought it normal to have his beloved Chevy’s system changed every couple of years. Low expectations breeds contempt.

    Also relating to LJC comments – different models are made at different qualities to a price (Yaris and Corolla made lower cost than Camry and Avalon) and different purposes (trucks are worked and luxury cars pampered). Honda historically edges out Toyota (globally) for reliability but does not offer many serious off-road vehicles or trucks that are more abused (yes arguably the recent addition of Ridgeline – but I doubt they see the service levels of Tacoma and Tundra). Its hard to directly compare manufacturers with differnt lines – some premium or entry level car only and others full line from econo to premium luxury cars and HD comercial trucks. Remember comercial fleets eat many issues fixed by own service departments.

    All things considerred – Toyota is ranked my highest overall non comercial full line – I also rank Subaru very high. Honda would be my distant 3rd. Yes Lexus rocks – but is out of my league. You see who is above Subaru – do you really think JDP inititial quality rank is meaningfull? I don’t. Smart is near average – doubt it, sister-in-laws got great fuel mileage alright, but spent many miles on back of tow truck and in shop – was great in first few months then often stranded.

    Has anybody ever seen a high mileage Porche let alone sloshing around daily stop and go comutes in salt filled winter roads.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Great points as always. I had a chance recently to discuss quality with RAM and Subaru. It seems expectations and past history seem to dictate JD Power survey results (and other quality indexes) more than the current vehicle. Ram argues that yes they had some bad years, but that shouldn’t be held against their current model. Unfortunately with Chrysler, we have heard this song and dance before.

      Subaru is very interesting as a brand. I drove the Forester and RBZ (RBZ around a track). I was impressed with the time/effort they put into building their car and how much effort they spent on quality. While they will always be a bit of a “niche” brand, they do have some high points.


  4. Mason says:

    I’m surprised Ford, Ram, and Jeep aren’t on the bottom. Consumer Reports ranks Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Ford, and Lincoln respectively as the bottom five on there list of manufacturers for customer satisfaction, reliability, and number of recommended vehicles. Lexus was rated number 1 with high satisfaction and reliability, and 100% of their vehicles recommended by CR.

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