What new vehicle has the most problems?

Yes, it’s JD Power Initial Quality Study time again, and there are lots of surprises! The Ford C-Max is the Queen of the Prom. With an average of 222 problems per 100 CUVs, it almost doubles the industry average of 113. The industry average that includes such perennial losers as Mini and Land Rover. But wait! Land Rover experienced a meteoric rise to just below average (116)! The folks at Gaydon Centre are undoubtedly pleased. Ford is way below average, but not as bad as Scion. No brand is as bad as Scion. But the world is not completely topsy-turvy. The top 5 are Porsche, GMC, Lexus, Infiniti, and Chevrolet. And all have fewer than 100 problems per 100 vehicles. I expected all but Infiniti in the top 5, and it’s great to see a brand with solid offerings like Infiniti on the Short List. Wow. Toyota and Lexus must have paid the extorsion demands, but what about Scion? I know from experience that several of the Usual Suspects need to complain about the IQS, and I wanted to give you ample opportunity. Here’s the release fron JD Power and a USA Today article that chronicles the C-Max dubious honor.


I understand that initial problems may be an indicator of problems down the road, but long term reliability reports are beneficial too. Working out bugs in new vehicles is a time honored occurrence. No one is immune and having a car with no or few bugs according to JD Power, could just mean they (the manufacturer) has commissioned them to search for the most friendly data.

Anything that is assembled will have problems, especially something as complicated as a motor vehicle. Lexus has always been in the top 5, and they have earned the reputation for having very few problems at any stage of ownership. I think the main reason to provide this type of data is that many people are not willing to live with initial problems. Maybe they need the car every day for commuting. But continued high levels of initial problems lead current owners to look elsewhere when they buy their next car. Maybe Ford should have promoted leasing the C-Max as Chevrolet did with the Volt. I think Chevy pushed leasing because the Volt was full of new tech that they had little experience with. It would be much easier to replace a leased vehicle which they own. I’m sure Ford will work their way out of it.

Another intersting thing is that the industry average is 113 problems per 100 vehicles. I suspect that many vehicles have more than one problem, and that indicates that having no initial problems is becoming the norm.

And no, there is no boogieman behind the door. JD Power has more to lose by taking kickbacks. I just knew someone would make that comment. I just know that several others will, too. Piffle.

There are so many vehicles JD Powers has said to have very high initial quality over the years…and turned out to be total dogs. I find their list totally worthless.

Mike, they provided data of interest to most new car buyers. You are interested in how well a car will preform over something like 15 years. Most new car buyers aren’t interested in that sort of information. And your Lexus and Toyotas had excellent performance, whether it means anything to you or not.

My problem with JD Powers is that they represent themselves as an impartial evaluation organization when in fact their business model is to sell (license) the use of their awards to manufacturers. They design their awards to have product to sell the willing manufacturers. I believe their data is technically accurate but “cherry picked”.

I’ve owned my fair share of vehicles over the last 45 years, and I can tell you that the Scion in my garage right now with over 200,000 miles has been outstanding, as was my son’s (he just traded for an Audi). My scion did have a few early body hardware issues (none serious), but beyond that I’ve only had to change the front wheel bearings (at about 180,000 miles) and the alternator (at 200,000 miles).

Oh, and the cat converter at about 160,000 miles. Almost forgot that one.

I also have little use for the their initial quality ratings. The fact that brands move up and down the ratings on a yearly basis makes me doubt they’re measuring much of anything important. The Scion rating I find baffling, inconsistent.

I vote to the one who’s owner fails to follow the recommended maintenance. I would guess there are far more problems caused by not following the recommendations of the manufacturer than anything else.

Two comments.
One is that I believe the the original story on this stated that problems were also considered to include things that the new car owner perceived to be a problem. The fact someone decides a month later that the seats are uncomfortable does not mean a design flaw or quality control issue.

Two is that J.D. Power in the past has gotten caught taking payola for awards about 20ish years ago. There were the obligatory public apologies, statements that it will never happen again, and some sacrificial lambs were terminated. That makes anything they do suspect and besides, they dole out so many awards they’re almost meaningless.

Problem wise there isn’t a whole lot of difference in the incidence of the best and at least 3/4 down the list. There will be problems and the older the design the fewer problems but more importantly I think is how the dealerships respond. I don’t necessarly care if there is a problem but expect the dealerships to jump on it and correct it. I’m thinking some of the dealer networks are slipping a little and GM is improving quite a bit.

They say Scion was low on the list because of one of their new vehicles.

We test drove a Cmax and were not impressed. The prius was much better.

Initial quality is great… but doesn’t necessarily have much relation to how well the car will hold up at say, 80K miles. And I don’t consider a blemish in the paint or optically distorted glass to be much of an indicator of a car’s longevity, though these are some of the defects that JD Power dings new cars for. Not that they shouldn’t count, or that if you get a car with some blemishes that you won’t be upset or wonder what else wasn’t done properly, but it really doesn’t show how well a car is engineered or the quality of the parts that went into it.

I’m not impressed with the CMax either, but a coworker just bought one and loves it. I guess you shouldn’t judge a new car too harshly in its first model year.

I wish there were ratings on how easy a car was to service and repair as well as the other ratings. I seem to remember Popular Science rating ease of bulb changes, oil changes, accessibility for tune-ups (not that people do tune-ups themselves anymore) Car and Driver used to show how much a headlight change will cost you, etc. as well. How they cram all the parts into limited space is a decent indicator on how haphazard the engineering is on a vehicle as well.

I would bet on the one who never opens the owner’s manual and wonders why his cars always give him problems.

What new vehicle has the most problems?
It is always the one that I buy.

“What new vehicle has the most problems?
It is always the one that I buy.”

You gotta suffer if you wanna sing the blues…

Initial Quality is mostly a function of Assembly Quality. And I believe it’s the first 3 months. There was a time in the 60s when British cars were really well finished, but very poorly designed. That leather smell and wooden dashboard seduced a lot of buyers. At that time a US car was a bit of a do-it-yourself kit with many trips back to the dealer to get that assembly right.

After that the US car was OK for about 100,000 miles while the British car started rusting and disintegrating. A friend had an E-Type Jag and at 80,000 miles nearly all major parts, like generator, starter had been replaced TWICE!

Initial Quality is not very important, in my book, as long as the dealer knows how to fix these things.

“Initial Quality is mostly a function of Assembly Quality.”

Agreed, and it is very important to many people. I’m included in that group.

I had a 1970 Austin America. It needed a top end job at 7500 miles. A friend used to laugh about it at parties and once a Brit was present. He said that was SOP in GB. Everyone had their heads shaved at 5000 miles because assembly quality was awful on all British Leyland cars.

@jtsanders I bought my 1965 Dodge Dart new, and since I lived closer to the plant than a dealer friend I bought it from, I picked it up there, together with Chrysler’s “factory pre-service”, which cost $100 then. For that I got a full tank of gas and fluid in the WW washers. There were still 11 things wrong with the car, none of them really serious, that had to be corrected by a local dealer.

These items ranged for no light on the console shift indicator, to misaligned front wheels, to carpet popping out from the hold-down trim, and a few other items, indicating sloppy assembly. Once this was fixed, the car was reliable for 13 years when we scrapped it because of rust.


Check out this website. Craig Van Batenburg occasionally writes about how easy/difficult a particular car is to service, and the reliability. It is definitely a professional’s magazine, though.

@db4690: Right back at ya with this: http://www.searchautoparts.com/motor-age/technicians/ma-magazine-issues?tid=226

Motor Age magazine is great I especially like the troubleshooting columns.