European automakers make the grade

The Associated Press
Friday May 18, 2001

Asian manufacturers still No.1, but quality gap closing 


DETROIT — Asian automakers still lead the way on overall vehicle quality but Europeans showed the greatest improvement in the past year, according to the latest study by J.D. Power and Associates. 

European automakers have all but closed the quality gap with Asian automakers, who averaged 140 problems per 100 vehicles in this year’s study. 

The Europeans averaged 141 problems per 100 vehicles, after averaging 156 last year. Domestic automakers averaged 153 problems per 100 vehicles, the study says. 

Among the Europeans, Jaguar showed a 21 percent improvement over last year with 108 problems per 100 vehicles, or just more than one problem per vehicle – 21 fewer problems per vehicle than last year. 

Jaguar began a long, steady climb toward general quality improvement after being taken over by Ford Motor Co. in 1989, said Joe Ivers, executive director of quality and consumer satisfaction at J.D. Powers. 

Volkswagen AG also showed marked quality improvement, with an average of 159 problems per 100 vehicles, 30 fewer than in last year’s study. 

All three U.S.-based automakers – General Motors Corp., Ford and the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler AG – had top-ranked vehicles in the study, including the GMC Sonoma compact pickup truck, Ford Expedition full-size SUV, Chrysler Concorde and the Chevrolet Corvette. 

“We believe the J.D. and Associates results show that GM’s quality initiatives are having a positive and lasting effect on our products and customers,” Ronald Zarrella, GM’s president of North American operations, said in a statement. 

Vehicles built by Ford averaged 162 problems per 100 vehicles, the highest among domestic automakers and four more than last year. GM had 146, while DaimlerChrysler averaged 154. 

“Obviously we have lots of work ahead of us. We are accelerating all our efforts to improve. We’re not happy,” said Ford spokeswoman Marcy Evans. 

Vehicles produced by Toyota, including its luxury Lexus division, led in seven categories, by far the most of any automaker. 

Winners included Toyota’s Corolla in the compact car division, Lexus LS 430 in the premium luxury car category and Tundra among full-size pickups. 

Two of Toyota’s North American plants also took top honors in this year’s study. None of the domestic automakers’ plants scored in the top three in North America, but a Ford-owned Jaguar plant in England won second place in Europe. A BMW plant in Munich, Germany, was first. 

J.D. Powers’ Ivers said the secret to Toyota’s success in maintaining quality is its practice of “taking variation out of vehicle production,” which leads to consistency. 

The 2001 Initial Quality Study is based on survey responses from more than 54,000 new-vehicle owners and lessees after 90 days of ownership. This is the study’s 15th year.