This year, people are talking more often about the quality of vehicles than they did last year. That's good news for some, as J.D. Power & Associates' new Initial Quality Survey (IQS) for the first time puts domestics ahead of imports, even though overall quality has declined across the industry.
The Web intelligence team looked at quality discussions from February to April 2010 versus May to July 2009, and found a 3% increase in them. The firm defines them as discussions during which people talk about adamantly researching the quality of the vehicle they wish to purchase.
J.D. Power says that last year consumers predominantly discussed the woes of fallen U.S. automakers, often naming the lack of quality manufacturing and engineering as primary culprits.
Toyota's big recall changed that. This year, people are discussing the quality of vehicles as a primary consideration when purchasing new and used vehicles, per the IQS and Web Intelligence studies. Sixty-three percent of respondents to the survey said quality and durability perceptions were considerations. That is followed by interior comfort and quality of workmanship.
The firm also says quality and durability has everything to do with loyalty. In the study, based on surveys of 2010 model-year vehicle owners after three months, 59% of owners of vehicles in the top quartile of IQS scores traded in for the same brand three years later. Forty-four percent of owners of vehicles in the bottom quartile did so.
Despite the closing gap between domestics and imports, imports still got 14 of 21 awards, and Toyota got 6. But half of the IQS leaders among recently launched cars and trucks were Fords: Ford Mustang, Fusion, Taurus, Lincoln MKZ and Mercury Milan.
Among the nameplates that slipped -- causing an overall lower score -- Lexus, Hyundai, and Infiniti slipped. So did Toyota, Kia, VW, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Nissan, BMW and Mercury.