The Toledo-made Jeep Liberty failed to blaze the trail when it comes to quality in a pack led by the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Subaru Forester, according to an annual industry study released yesterday.
The RAV4 won top quality honors for entry sport-utility vehicles in a survey of 65,000 new-vehicle buyers and lessees done 90 days after the transactions by J.D. Power and Associates of Westlake Village, Calif.
The CR-V took second place in the 14-model category, which includes the Toledo-made Jeep Wrangler. The Santa Fe and Forester tied for third-place honors among entry SUVs.
Still, the Liberty placed fifth, had a higher-than-average ranking in the category, and posted a 14 percent improvement over the finishing grade for its Toledo-made Jeep Cherokee predecessor, said Brian Walters, director of product research at J.D. Power.
"It had quite a successful launch. It had fewer problems than the average entry SUV. For a vehicle coming out of the box like that, thatís an achievement."
Overall in the report, Toyota Motor Corp. again came out on top in quality among major automakers by averaging 107 problems per 100 vehicles, down from 115 last year, according to Reuters news service. It was the best marks ever on the study.
J.D. Power declined to disclose the number of problems per 100 vehicles the survey recorded for the Liberty, any other vehicle, or the automakers themselves. The Wrangler, which was ranked No. 2 in the category last year, slipped below the Liberty and had more problems per 100 vehicles than last year, said J.D. Power officials, who declined to elaborate.
Itís unusual for an all-new or redesigned model to top its segment, J.D. Power noted, although the Ford Thunderbird ranked highest among entry-luxury cars. Plus, the entry SUV categoryís second-place CR-V was redesigned for 2002 models.
Both the Liberty and the new Dodge Ram, which had a 15 percent improvement over its predecessor in the survey, are among DaimlerChrysler AGís best launches, a spokesman said. The Ram did not place in its categoryís top three, either.
The Liberty and Ram were subject to Chryslerís new multi-check vehicle-development system, which was strengthened after the merger with Daimler-Benz AG and is being fine-tuned, said a company spokesman.