GMC Sierra Top Quality? JD Power Survey Inconsistent

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Last week JD Power announced their 2010 Initial Quality Survey results, and top honors went to the Chevy Avalanche and the GMC Sierra (which were tied for first). Ford’s F150 and the Nissan Frontier were close behind, ranking 3rd and 4th respectively.

2010 GMC Sierra wrongly wins JD Power quality award

How can two trucks built at the same factory have two different quality ratings?

The trouble is, there’s no WAY that the GMC Sierra should have won anything.

How The JD Power Initial Quality Study Works

Every year between the months of November and February, JD Power surveys a large number of new vehicle owners and asks them if they’ve had any problems with their vehicle. The key phrase here is “any problems.” Rather than limiting owners to reporting mechanical problems, JD Power includes consumer complaints about design and function in their survey results. If, for example, someone doesn’t like the way the driver’s seat adjusts, JD Power calls that a “problem” and it impacts a vehicle’s quality rating.

Obviously, this can skew results. Vehicles that are suffering from negative publicity and/or a recall during the study period (like all Toyota vehiles) are likely to receive a lower initial quality rating. According to JD Power VP of Research David Sargent:

…the problems reported most often by Toyota owners were related to brake pedals, steering and floor mats–all of which were the subject of Toyota recalls

Because of the way that JD Power’s study works, Forbes says that Detroit Has Toyota to Thank For a Quality Win, intimating that Detroit wouldn’t have done so well were it not for the Toyota recall.

One other limitation of JD Power’s initial quality study is that it doesn’t account for discrepancies between identical vehicles. Take the GMC Sierra and the Chevy Silverado – both are manufactured side-by-side at GM’s Fort Wayne assembly plant in Roanoke, Indiana. The trucks are nearly identical, and considering that they’re built on the exact same assembly line, they should have identical quality…but they don’t.

According to the JD Power quality break-down on, GMC’s Sierra 1500 had 81 problems per 100 vehicles. It’s identical twin the Silverado 1500? 101 problems per 100 vehicles. While some have argued that the GMC is somehow “better” than the Silverado, there’s absolutely no documentation to support this. When you go to the GMC dealer to order genuine GM replacement parts, they’re identical to the parts you order at the Chevy dealer. If the labor and the parts are identical, then the trucks are identical…and the quality ratings should be too. Both trucks are slightly better than average in terms of initial quality, but still behind Ford and Nissan. The GMC should have won.

Ford Quality Keeps Improving, Ram 1500 Surprises

Ford’s initial quality rating for 2010 was a slight improvement over 2009, and for that they deserve recognition. Last year, 88 problems per 100 vehicles was good enough to tie with Toyota for first place. This year, were it not for the high quality rating of the Avalanche, it’s likely that Ford would have won again. Looking across all models, Ford’s quality improvements have been excellent over the last few years, and the F150 is certainly a great truck (which is why we had no problem recommending it in our Tundra vs. F150 comparison).

The Ram 1500 showed a dramatic improvement in quality over last year, when it had 131 problems per 100 vehicles making it third worst 2009 truck in the study (second only to the Explorer SporTrac and the Chevy Colorado). This year, the Ram 1500 had only 98 problems per 100 vehicles – slightly better than the average of 108 problems per 100 vehicles. That’s a nice improvement.

Tundra’s Problems More Than Just Recalls

2010 Tundra check-engine light problems

Unfortunately, there’s strong evidence that the Tundra’s build quality is sliding. While the Tundra’s quality is still above average (even with the recall), the 2010 Tundra had 100 problems per 100 vehicles in the JD Power Study. It’s certainly possible that the Tundra would have been #1 again were it not for the recall, but not as likely. 2010 Tundras had a somewhat common VVT-i issue that likely would have hurt quality ratings even if the recall hadn’t happened.

While it’s not as if Toyota quality has now transitioned to “poor,” overall quality improvements at Ford, GM, and Chrysler-Fiat means that Toyota has got their work cut out for them.

Filed Under: Auto News


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  1. greg says:

    ason says: May 29, 2010 at 6:51 pI also hope you agree that Fiat’s Ram has a lower quality rating than the Tundra according to Consumer Reports and JD power”.

  2. greg says:

    Jason said May 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm “If you don’t want to look at TSBs, look at Consumer Reports and JD Power.”

    I believe I said that JD power didn’t mean a thing but who paid the most for advertising. So now they Apperently don’t know what they are doing since they gave a Silveraldo and Serria different ratings. How many times can you change sides? At least pick one standard and stick with it!

  3. Mickey says:

    I agree with your statement about GMC and the Silverado in the parts and labor being the same. Owners of GMC’s tend to think they have a better and you might say upper class than the Silverado truck owners. This is probably why they claim less issues. Good notes on the F-150 and Ram.

  4. Jason says:

    Greg – So you’re saying that JD Power’s decision to rank the Sierra and the Silverado differently makes sense?

  5. Jason says:

    Mickey – I think that might be the case as to why GMC owners complain less. It could also be a statistical variance…either way, it’s suspect. I think the two trucks should be averaged together – that would be the most fair way to do it.

  6. rich says:

    “By the way I own a 08 Super Duty, but will always root for the under dogs!!! Expect in this situation when its TOYOTA!!!!” The guy who said this could care less what you write Jason. He just wants to hassle folks every chance he gets. Very seldom does he contribute, he likes to argue and belittle folks.

  7. Jason says:

    Greg – Same rules here – since you’re being so hostile, I’m going to delete every comment you make that doesn’t answer my question. You WILL be civil to me or you will not comment.

  8. danny says:

    Being a former GMC owner, i guess i do tend to think that the GMC is of higher quality than the chevy eventhough there’s no proof other than my ego. I dont know if mickey’s statement is true across the board but there may be some validity to it. I, considering how much more a GMC cost than it’s chevy sister, would have complained about anything that didnt work right. Luckily, my old GMC was a great truck but i dont know if i can say the same about the newer ones.

  9. Brian J says:

    I never have been a fan of the JD Power Initial Quality Study. I guess I just feel like it doesn’t accurately reflect long term reliability of a vehicle. I have always looked at the long term studies because, for me, that is what will impact me the most as I am one to drive a truck for 10+ years. I really don’t care if I have a few problems in the beginning because the truck is under warranty. Once its my responsibility to fix everything that goes wrong I want to know I will have little or no problems. So, if you look at the long term reliability study which recently assessed problems in model year 2007 vehicles: Tundra is still first, but Ford gets an honorable mention for sure.

  10. Mickey says:

    I owned a GMC and 2 silverado’s. To me it seemed the GMC was a a better vehicle than it’s counterpart. But yes it did have issues. It was a two tone painted truck but the black top part on the hood and roof the primer was coming through the first month. Then they repainted the roof and hood and put clear coat on top of both areas. Well all in good but it didn’t go with the front fenders and the bed rails. Only time it matched is when you waxed the truck.

  11. Jason says:

    Brian J – I hear you, but I think they all have limitations. The key in my mind is to look at all of the studies as a whole. Individually, none of these studies can stand on it’s own.

    Mickey – Weird. Maybe the GMCs get some sort of blessing before leaving the factory and the Chevy’s don’t! 🙂

  12. greg says:

    Like I said before I don’t agree with JD powers. Apperently you did until this happened. This has been happening for years with chevy and GMC.

  13. greg says:

    If you can’t take ridicule then maybe this isn’t for you. If you recommend JD Power one day and criticism them other it makes no sense. Pick a standard and stick with it! As for as you say I will be civil show me where I’m not! Is this a I got picked on in school and now I have the power issue, funny how one can dish out jokes but can take them!!!!!!

  14. Mickey says:

    Greg I do agree with you and I don’t agree with the mags either. To me is how much you’re willing to pay to get reviews. I know that sounds wrong but that’s how I break it down. If you pay for alot of advertisements then to me it’s the same. I do take what they put out with a grain of salt. I’ll take what IIHS and NHTSA first before anything else.

  15. Beezwax says:

    i like boobies… can’t we all just get along?

    for years and years JD and have been tearing apart automobiles… they all have their weaknesses and they all have their string points. some more or less than others. many of us buy for what we like and how it feels in our hands.

  16. Jason says:

    Greg – Thanks for responding. You can call it a power trip if you want, but I’m not going to tolerate attacks from people who ignore my responses. You can berate me and my opinions all day, but you must have the courtesy to respond to my counter. Otherwise, it’s not a useful exchange for you, me, or anyone reading.

    As for your accusation that I pick and choose between the standards, I don’t deny it. I have said many times that none of these standards can stand by themselves. However, taken as a group, they usually paint a good picture.

  17. Ray says:

    I have a 2007 Sierra 3500 Duramax Diesel and Allison Transmission. It’s an automatic, with a long bed. i absolutely love my truck. Stock, it will out perform any other diesel, even those with “alleged goodies”.

  18. mk says:

    I made the mistake of arguing with a GMC guy who said his GMC is far superior than the almost identical I called it Chevy silverado. To be honest, I’ve had both and both GMC and chevy had problems all the time off and on during the warranty. I still do not understand why GM keeps GMC since they are the same truck basically. GMC guys say the side body panels are totally different, but I don’t see it, do you? Grille and emblems is all I see different, correct? GMC guys also say they have a different tranny and gearing, but I disagree as well. I’ll keep my 1 of a kind tundra thank you.

  19. Mickey says:

    Mk I agree with you. Grill work and badges. Maybe a wood trim.

  20. Jason says:

    mk – I don’t know exactly what is different, but I’ve read in more than one automotive news article that the trucks are essentially identical. Next time someone tells you that the GMC is better than the Chevy, ask them how they know. That usually gets them to realize that they have no idea.

  21. Z says:

    I’ll tell you guys all I know. I worked with a lady who was in her 70s who worked for AC spark plug for 30 years and she said that GMC vehicles get better parts in certain areas than Chevys and that’s all I know there. GMC is really more of an a la carte package these days and GMC trucks will have more things as standard.

  22. Jason says:

    Z – Interesting. I’ve heard this many times from a lot of people, but I have yet to find any sort of conclusive evidence. I would agree that GMC trucks tend to be better-equipped and that they attract more of a “luxury” buyer than Chevy. Perhaps the difference is that the GMCs simply have more “stuff” than the Chevys.

    I guess the only way we’ll know is if GM tells the secret…don’t think that’s happening, eh? 🙂

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