Many factors should be considered when researching a car purchase including fuel efficiency, size, and available features but quality is generally the most significant element drivers use to make their final decision. Recently, J.D. Power and Associates released their 26th annual Initial Quality Study (IQS), a quantitative report on vehicle quality and reliability using data pulled from recent car buyer surveys. How important are these types of quality studies though and what is the right way to use them?
The first quality study was developed by J. David Power, a former Ford analyst, in 1970, revolutionizing the automotive industry. Today, J.D. Power and Associates is the leader in quality research, surveying tens of thousands of consumers annually. Their Initial Quality Study, which measures out-of-the-box quality by measuring vehicle issues over the first few months of ownership, has become the manufacturer standard.
However, the IQS only provides one measure of vehicle quality and therefore should not be the only study shoppers use in their decision-making process. J.D. Power, as well as other research firms, produce several additional studies that may actually provide more relevant data for consumers. For example, J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study analyses a vehicle’s condition after three years. This information is helpful as three years is generally when a vehicle’s factory warranty will run out.
The question of what matter most, things-gone-wrong or things-gone-right, is also causing debate in the industry. Current quality studies only take into consideration vehicle problems but with quality at an all-time high and the gaps between manufactures shrinking, these studies are becoming less and less useful.
The bottom line is that quality reports are reliable and helpful tools in comparing makes and models for significant manufacturing issues but they do not provide a complete picture of a vehicle’s overall quality. Taking the time to study several industry reports will produce the best research results and provide car shoppers a comprehensive analysis, helping to ensure the car they end up purchasing meets all their requirements and lasts for many years to come.