J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Ratings
While few would argue that today's cars and trucks are designed and built better and last longer than ever, why is it that the industry's overall reliability ratings, particularly those just released by the venerable consumer research firm J.D. Power are on the decline. The consumer research company says they fell by an average industry-wide 3% in its just released 2016 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study of three-year-old vehicles.
And yet the same study shows that the number of major mechanical powertrain problems reported by their owners declined by around 8% in the past year.
Apparently the notion of what qualifies as an unreliable car no longer means one that leaves its owner stranded at the side of the road or otherwise requires frequent repairs. Today it's stretched to encompass what some of us might consider minor inconveniences, particularly balky voice control systems and difficulty with Bluetooth mobile phone pairing and connectivity. Issues with electronics now account for 20% of all consumer-reported car problems in J.D. Power's survey.
"The increase in technology-related problems has two sources," says Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. "Usability problems that customers reported during their first 90 days of ownership are still bothering them three years later in ever-higher numbers. At the same time, the penetration of these features has increased year over year."
In total, seven out of the top 10 glitches reported are design-related and account for 39% of issues reported this year, which represents a 2% increase from 2015. In addition to infotainment system-related glitches (noted under the survey's "Feature and Accessory Dependability" scores), these include problems with things like the vehicle's exterior, seats, seatbelts, wind noise, interior fit/finish, paint imperfection and squeaks/rattles (categorized under a car's "Body and Interior Dependability" ratings).