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New car quality on the decline

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Posted: 10 am ET

While new cars are dramatically higher in quality than years ago, the number of problems experienced by new car owners has increased recently. J.D. Power’s 2014 Initial Quality Study found a 3 percent increase in problems experienced by new car owners in the first 90 days of ownership, averaging 116 problems per 100 vehicles.

The firm noted that brand new or redesigned cars were more problematic than so-called "carryover" models that had not undergone significant changes for the 2014 model year, with 128 problems per 100 vehicles for the new/redesigned cars versus 113 problems per 100 vehicles on carryover models. The increase in problems is primarily related to voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing and audio systems, with consumers noting the technology is hard to understand, difficult to use or just doesn't work the way it is designed.

In addition, J.D. Power noted that new car owners in the Northeast and Midwest reported a higher rate of problems this year versus last compared to other U.S. regions, which reported the same level of problems. The majority of the increase in problems was associated with climate control systems, exterior and engine/transmission categories, all of which are affected by harsh weather.

For the second year in a row, the highest ranking brand in the study was Porsche, with 74 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Jaguar (with 87 problems), Lexus (with 92 problems) and Hyundai (with 94 problems). Among the car segment awards, General Motors received awards in six segments -- more than any other automaker and for the second consecutive year. Other automakers receiving multiple segment awards were Hyundai, Ford, Nissan, Volkswagen AG, Fiat Chrysler and Mazda.

When quality problems are related to safety issues, cars are often recalled. Here's how to learn about car recalls sooner.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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