Lexus, Buick top J.D. Power reliability survey, but tech bugs still common


The J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, a two-decade look at the problems in cars and trucks after three years of ownership, has been a glass half-full/half-empty exercise for a few years now. If you're an optimist, you'd say the list of most-reported faults ? led by bad Bluetooth connections and poor understanding of voice commands ? are the very definition of #firstworldproblems.

But this year survey contends those problems are becoming a defining part of owning a vehicle in the 21st century, and will be the difference between a car owner who comes back for more and one who decides to pair their smartphones with another brand.

"At the three-year point, many owners are thinking about replacing their vehicles, and we find that how they feel about their current vehicle's quality and dependability impacts their intent to consider purchasing the same brand again," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power.

Speaking of brands, the results in the J.D. Power survey of 34,000 owners about problems in the past year with their 2012 model-year vehicles tracks the results from Tuesday's Consumer Reports survey. Lexus leads J.D. Power's results for the fourth year in a row, scoring 89 reported problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Buick, Toyota, Cadillac and Honda. At the bottom of the 34 brands rated: Fiat, with 273 problems per 100 cars, trailed by Land Rover (258) and Jeep (197).

The most improved brands? Scion, Ram and Mitsubishi, which all now rank above the industry average of 147 problems per 100. J.D. Power says that six of the top 10 problems reported by owners were design issues ? things like a lack of USB ports ? that couldn't be fixed without a redesigned vehicle. (Already, 15 percent of new buyers cite a lack of technology as a reason to not buy a car ? which is why car ads are suddenly talking about how easy you can find USB ports in the rear of vehicles like the Nissan Murano.) We'll have to wait three years to see if that's enough to satisfy the thoroughly modern car shopper.