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Reliability Perceptions are Changing - Not Good for Toyota

Since all cars are better built today, will Toyota's "reliability" franchise be compromized?
(editor's note)


It’s no secret that auto manufacturers are creating better vehicles than ever before – safer, more feature-rich, higher quality, and more reliable.  Data from J. D. Power and Associate's Vehicle Dependability Study, which surveys owners of three-year-old vehicles regarding the number of problems experienced in the prior twelve months, backs the assertion of improved reliability. 


As illustrated below, these five high-volume brands have each dramatically reduced their problem incidence since 2005.  In fact, Ford’s is now nearly on par with long-time industry leaders Honda and Toyota. 

NOTE: article written by J. D. Power and Associate's

But consumer sentiment is often divorced from reality.  The domestic brands continue to carry poor reliability perceptions borne out of decades of actual poor performance.  The 2010 Avoider Study, which examines the reasons consumers fail to consider (i.e. avoid) particular new models, shows that Chrysler, Chevrolet, and Ford are all avoided by greater than 20% of vehicle buyers because of reliability concerns.  The latter two have made inroads (carried at least partly by better actual performance) and decreased their reliability avoidance by three and seven percentage points, respectively, over the past six years.  Meanwhile, Chrysler’s reliability avoidance continues to worsen.

The Toyota and Honda corporations have long enjoyed stellar reputations for reliability. 


For Acura and Honda, those perceptions have remained remarkably steady for the past six years, never rising above 7% avoidance. 


Conversely, the steady drum of recalls and poor PR has negatively impacted Toyota and Lexus, with 15% and 6% of avoiders, respectively, citing reliability concerns.  Interestingly, corporate sibling Scion, which has largely avoided the fallout, actually experienced an improved reliability perception in 2010.

The Toyota saga illustrates how quickly brand reputations – even those which have been painstakingly crafted over years – can turn. 


Mercedes-Benz went through a similarly painful period ten years ago, when the Chrysler takeover and new product launches created numerous vehicle reliability issues.  It has taken the company the remaining part of the decade to recover its once sterling image. 


Toyota Motor Corporation must continue its redoubled efforts to produce great products and earn back its position as a reliability leader.


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Tags: -, Changing, Good, Not, Perceptions, Reliability, Toyota, are, for


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Comment by Tom Gorham on August 14, 2011 at 5:17pm
Hi Bruce.  Even though Chevy began building high quality vehicles, it's difficult to overcome perceptions that were formed years ago.  Toyota is now faced with that same problem, rightly or wrongly.  Marketing is king in this area.  It can make you or break you.
Comment by Bruce McFarland on August 14, 2011 at 2:05pm

Interesting data.  Hard to believe Toyota and Lexus avoidances have doubled in a year.  I wonder if this is strictly due to recalls -- or the bad press from those 'runaway acceleration' incidents?  Audi took a big hit a decade ago when they had this problem (never completely proven or solved, just like Toyota's), and it's taken them a long time to come back.


Nice to see Ford doing better in quality.  Seems to me that hard economic times put a premium on quality -- people don't want big maintenance bills or depreciation down the road, and are willing to pay up front to reduce these.


No data shown for Hyundai or Kia but a lot of people I talk with says their quality and perception are up significantly from a few years ago.  And Jay Leno isn't mocking their quality like he used to.






Comment by Tom Gorham on August 14, 2011 at 8:39am

Thanks Ralph.  Being a Chevy guy, I am very proud to see the improvements Chevrolet has made in new product.  I left Chrysler when they merged with Mercedes because I no longer considered them an American product and I felt Mercedes would neglect them and run them down (true huh?).  For years, I kept asking why the domestic companies couldn't understand that small does not need to mean cheap.  The Chevy Cruze has shown that GM finally "got it".

I think Toyota will do well as time goes by.  They fell into the trap of growth overwhelming their quality control but I think total shock and humiliation has altered their thinking and their powers that be understand they have to regain the public's sense of quality and reliability.

Who am I rootin' for?  Well Chevy, of course!

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