Mercedes-Benz has fallen behind its sister brand Chrysler in a closely watched report on vehicle dependability, while General Motors has surged. And Japanese vehicles continue, over all, to hold up the best.
The report, issued today by J. D. Power & Associates, focuses on problems that arise over three years of ownership. Its rankings are important because most consumers say a vehicle's reputation for long-term durability is their top consideration in buying.
The most surprising results involved DaimlerChrysler. Since Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler in 1998, auto experts have often asked whether the manufacturer of the Mercedes could bring respectability to a struggling American icon.
But in the J. D. Power report, both the Chrysler and Dodge brands outperformed Mercedes-Benz, which in turn only narrowly edged out Chrysler's Jeep brand. Mercedes averaged 318 problems per 100 vehicles, versus 295 for all the Chrysler Group brands.
While automakers are not far apart in initial quality — which spans the first three months of a vehicle's life — the report shows that there are still wide gaps in performance over longer periods. Automakers covet even small gains in the J. D. Power report, knowing that it takes years of sustained results, either good or bad, to change the perceptions of buyers broadly. And customers will pay more for both new and used cars with fewer problems.