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J.D. Power: Lincoln most reliable

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 11 am ET

For frugal car buyers, there's nothing more important than a car's long-term reliability. No one wants to be stuck paying off an auto loan on a car that's having constant mechanical issues.

J.D. Power released its annual vehicle dependability study this week, and the results were pretty surprising. The study surveys owners of major brands' 2008 models to see how many have had serious problems.

Tops in the survey was Lincoln; for every 100 Lincoln autos, owners reported just 101 problems after 3 years of ownership. That may seem like a lot, but it's more than 30 percent less than the industry average was 151 problems per 100 vehicles.

Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota rounded out the top five. Jaguar surprised me a little bit. I've never understood Jaguar to be a particularly reliable brand; I've heard a ton of anecdotes about electrical problems and other issues with their cars in the past. Maybe they've finally moved beyond those issues.

Another luxury brand that ranked surprisingly high was Mercedes-Benz, which finished 8th. You'll recall Mercedes-Benz was one of the luxury brands I excoriated a few weeks ago for poor reliability in light of its poor finish in Consumer Reports' Automaker report cards. That survey found Mercedes-Benz had below-average reliability, and I commented that customers that paid the full price of admission for a Mercedes-Benz should demand better than below-average reliability.

Well, in the J.D. Power survey, the luxury automaker still isn't as high in the reliability rankings as their price premium might lead you to expect, but it's still a lot better than average, with 128 problems per 100 cars -- significantly better than the industry average of 151. On the other hand, Audi and BMW were both below average, clocking in at 161 problems and 164 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively.

One of the brands that fared worse than I would have expected was Volkswagen. While the company finished middle of the pack in reliability in the Consumer Reports study, it finished 29th out of 34 automakers surveyed in the J.D. Power study, with a whopping 191 problems per 100 cars.

Another company that didn't do as well as I would have expected was Honda, which finished just under Hyundai, definitely a result I wouldn't have predicted. In other reliability surveys I've seen, Honda's done really well, and while Hyundai is widely considered an up-and-comer in the industry, I haven't seen it beating Honda very often.

Besides Volkswagen, the other bottom feeders on the list were Chrysler products, Land Rover, and somewhat surprisingly, Mini. I'd never heard about serious reliability issues with Minis, so the fact that they anchor the bottom of the list with 221 problems per 100 vehicles is somewhat surprising.

As for the discrepancy between Consumer Reports' reliability information and J.D. Power's findings, I have to admit I'm a little perplexed. Assuming it's not just a result of skewed sampling in one or both of the surveys, part of the difference may be that the J.D. Power survey seems to simply track "problems," without regard for their severity. I'm not sure what rises to the threshold of being a "problem" in the J.D. Power survey, but it's possible Consumer Reports' data weights mechanical problems differently, resulting in wildly different ratings.

The full J.D. Power rankings are below. What do you think? Do you agree with the rankings? Did any of them surprise you?

  1. Lincoln -- 101 problems per 100 vehicles.
  2. Lexus -- 109 problems per 100 vehicles.
  3. Jaguar -- 112 problems per 100 vehicles.
  4. Porsche -- 114 problems per 100 vehicles.
  5. Toyota -- 122 problems per 100 vehicles.
  6. Acura -- 123 problems per 100 vehicles.
  7. Buick -- 125 problems per 100 vehicles.
  8. Mercedes-Benz -- 128 problems per 100 vehicles.
  9. Cadillac -- 130 problems per 100 vehicles.
  10. Hyundai -- 132 problems per 100 vehicles.
  11. Honda -- 139 problems per 100 vehicles.
  12. Ford -- 140 problems per 100 vehicles.
  13. Saab -- 146 problems per 100 vehicles.
  14. Infiniti -- 151 problems per 100 vehicles.
  15. Smart -- 152 problems per 100 vehicles.
  16. Chevrolet -- 156 problems per 100 vehicles.
  17. Volvo -- 156 problems per 100 vehicles.
  18. Subaru -- 157 problems per 100 vehicles.
  19. Kia -- 160 problems per 100 vehicles.
  20. Audi -- 161 problems per 100 vehicles.
  21. BMW -- 164 problems per 100 vehicles.
  22. Scion -- 166 problems per 100 vehicles.
  23. Ram -- 173 problems per 100 vehicles.
  24. Mazda -- 181 problems per 100 vehicles.
  25. Nissan -- 183 problems per 100 vehicles.
  26. GMC -- 184 problems per 100 vehicles.
  27. Mitsubishi -- 186 problems per 100 vehicles.
  28. Suzuki -- 190 problems per 100 vehicles.
  29. Volkswagen -- 191 problems per 100 vehicles.
  30. Chrysler -- 202 problems per 100 vehicles.
  31. Dodge -- 206 problems per 100 vehicles.
  32. Land Rover -- 212 problems per 100 vehicles.
  33. Jeep -- 214 problems per 100 vehicles.
  34. Mini -- 221 problems per 100 vehicles.
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2 Comments
est. 1903
May 04, 2011 at 7:44 pm

From my experience this looks right but Lincoln in first and Volvo in 17th surprised me as I've heard a lot of good things about Volvo.