The annual quality study, now in its 27th year, looks at problems experiences by buyers of new cars during their first 90 days of ownership and uses the average number of problems to rank the brands. Lower scores mean a better result.
The industry average this year was 113 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100).
Porsche ranked highest among brands included in the 2013 study, averaging just 80 PP100. GMC ranked second with 90 PP100, and Lexus ranked third with 94 PP100.
GMC’s second-place ranking wasn’t the only surprise this year. Scion, a Toyota brand, ranked last in this year’s study, averaging 161 PP100.
General Motors brands did exceptionally well this year, with eight of its vehicles topping their respective segments. This was the first time in the study’s history that General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] came out on top.
Inset is an image showing how each brand fared in the 2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.
2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study brand rankings
Note, the study was changed this year so that both design-related (mostly tech features) and manufacturing defects were counted. For example, a design-related problem may mean a component is working as designed, but owners deem it a problem because it may be difficult to understand or operate.
In the end, nearly two-thirds of the problems experienced in the first 90 days of ownership were related to the vehicle's design, as opposed to components that malfunctioned. Most of these were related to the driver interface. Common culprits were voice recognition or hands-free technology, Bluetooth pairing for mobile phones, and navigation systems. Unfortunately, in most cases repairs are not possible.
According to J.D. Power researchers, some of these problems may be mitigated at the time of purchase by the salesperson explaining how to use the technology, and others may be remedied with software changes. However, features that are difficult for owners to operate, hard to understand, or inconveniently located in the vehicle likely will remain a problem for the life of the vehicle.
Hit the next page for a list of the individual winners from each of the vehicle segments included in the study.
2013 Lexus LS 460 F Sport
City car – Smart Fortwo
Sub-compact car – Mazda2
Compact car – Honda Civic
Compact sporty car – Mazda MX-5 Miata
Compact premium car – Acura TL
Compact premium sporty car – Porsche Boxster
Mid-size car – Toyota Camry
Mid-size sporty car – Chevrolet Camaro/Ford Mustang (tie)
Mid-size premium car – Hyundai Genesis sedan
Mid-size premium sporty car – Porsche 911
Large car – Chevrolet Impala
Large premium car – Lexus LS
Sub-compact SUV – Buick Encore/Kia Sportage (tie)
Compact SUV – Honda CR-V
Compact premium SUV – Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
Compact MPV – Kia Soul
Mid-size SUV – Nissan Murano
Mid-size premium SUV – Infiniti FX
Minivan – Chrysler Town & Country
Large SUV – Chevrolet Tahoe
Large premium SUV – Cadillac Escalade
Large light-duty pickup – Chevrolet Avalanche/GMC Sierra LD (tie)
Large heavy-duty pickup – Chevrolet Silverado HD