You will often see J D Power studies quoted in vehicle reviews and advertising, the latter only if the results are positive! Who is J D Power, what are his studies and why do they matter?
In 1968 J. D. “Dave” Power III and his wife Julie established the company from their kitchen table in Calibasas, California, focussing on the automotive industry. The company was incorporated the following year. The U.S. automotive Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) was launched in 1981. It would become the cornerstone of the company’s global business. The Initial Quality Study (IQS) was launched in 1987
The company, acquired by The McGraw Hill in 2005, now has offices in 17 locations throughout North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Other industries covered include: financial services, health care, home improvement, insurance, travel, tech, telecom, utilities and infrastructure
J D Power surveys are based on feedback from millions of consumers and do not include the opinion of anyone at J D Power. The data is obtained by mail, telephone and e-mail. Respondents, with actual experience with the product or service are chosen at random. The auto industry studies, for example, are conducted with owners of the vehicles. That information is provided by the manufacturer who gets the relevant information at the time of sale, based on registration for warranty and recall-related contact.
The J D Power surveys have gained an international reputation for unbiased feedback based on a “representative sample”. That last bit is important for two reasons, 1) it means respondents own, or have owned or used the product or service being rated and 2) the sample size is significant – tens of thousands in many cases. But more importantly, it means manufacturers pay attention to the ratings, anxiously awaiting the latest ones to ses if they have improved after addressing issues raised by customers in current and previous surveys.
The automotive surveys are conducted after a minimum of 90 days of ownership. The three that have gained notoriety are the Initial Quality Survey (IQS), Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and Customer Service Index (CSI)
Kia came out on top of the most recent IQS survey, ending the 27-year reign of premium brands. Twenty-one of the 33 brands studied showed improvement in all eight categories. Kia vehicles averaged 83 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Porsche at 84, Hyundai at 92, Toyota at 93 and BMW at 94. Occupying the other end of the ratings were: Jaguar, Mazda and MINI, 127; Land Rover, 132; Volvo, 152; Fiat, 174 and smart, 216
The Initial Quality Survey involves in-depth information based on problems per 100 vehicles. More than 230 problem areas are identified and categorized as either defect/malfunction or design-related. The IQS has come under criticism in recent years because of the latter. Some Ford products experienced a significant decline in their Initial Quality ratings because many buyers struggled with the company’s SYNC infotainment. One side of the argument says this is not truly a “quality” issue while the other says it is a direct feedback of customer satisfaction.
Lexus and Porsche top the 2017 Vehicle Dependability Study, again, with 110 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Toyota (123), Buick (126) and Mercedes-Benz (131). Fiat occupies the bottom slot with 298 problems per 100 vehicles, worse than Jeep (209), Infiniti (203) and Dodge (187) with Ram and Ford rounding out the bottom five at 183 each.
The Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) examines issues reported by original owners of 3-year-old vehicles. This study measures car reliability by analyzing problems experienced over the past 12 months of ownership in such areas as: features and controls; engine and transmission; entertainment and navigation; heating and cooling; the overall driving experience, and more.
Quality of service provided by dealers showed significant improvement in the most recent J D Power, survey. Lexus (874) owners followed by Audi (869), Lincoln (868), Porsche (867) and Cadillac (865). At the other end: Mazda, 784 and all FCA brands – Dodge, 771, Ram, 755, Jeep, 753 and Fiat, 739.
The Customer Service Index Study (CSI)—measures the satisfaction of vehicle owners who visited the dealer service department for maintenance or repair work during the first three years of vehicle ownership. The study, initially launched in 1981, provides a score based on five measures: service initiation, service advisor, service facility, vehicle pick-up, and service quality. A perfect score would be 1,000.