In the past few weeks, J.D. Power and Associates released two very important auto industry measurement tools that help us understand the overall ownership experience of our cars. General Motors has become one of the top-rated automakers in two key areas.
The first is vehicle dependability. J.D. Power’s 2015 US Vehicle Dependability Study ranks automakers and models based on the results of a survey it gives to owners of 2012 models. It asks how many defects they had over the past year. In other words, it looks at how well three-year-old cars are rated by their owners. The study counts the number of “defects” the owners report and then categorizes them. The metric used is defects per 100 vehicles (PP100). In this study, Buick was ranked number two behind Lexus. Lexus is way ahead of the pack with a score of 89 PP100 (lower is better). Buick’s score was 110. Toyota came in third, but then Cadillac was fourth. GM shared two of the top four places with the benchmark brands Toyota/Lexus.
The second important study gauged customers’ satisfaction with a trip to the dealer for a repair, recall, or for maintenance work. Called the J.D. Power Customer Service Index Study, this one ranks brands on a 1,000-point scale and higher is better. Among what the company calls “mainstream brands” GM’s Buick was number one with a score of 836. That was well ahead of Toyota(805) and Honda (796). Chevy and GMC also beat Honda and Toyota. Buick’s score was impressive because it was better than the bottom three ranked luxury brands of Volvo(835), Acura(825), and Land Rover(823). Despite its being grouped in with the mainstream brands, GM markets Buick as a premium make. In the luxury brand category, Cadillac came in above average and fifth overall. Its score of 858 put it ahead of Porsche and BMW.
In 2014, GM recalled almost 27 million cars. That is four times the number of cars Toyota recalled. Yet, it has not hurt the brand in these areas. J.D. Power and Associates’ Chris Sutton says,“Manufacturers have shown that it is possible to turn a potential negative into a positive when it comes to recalls if they’re done in a way that doesn’t inconvenience the customer.” GM’s strong sales have also reflected this fact, and it has been widely reported that many owners bringing in recalled cars to dealers happily went home with a new one.
Most of the articles written about cars focus on the machines themselves. However, the total ownership experience is what some successful brands like Lexus, Toyota and others at the top of these rankings have made their passion. Even great cars break. How often they do and how the owner is treated when she takes it to the dealership for repairs can define the vehicle in the owner’s mind. From this writer/tester’s viewpoint, the actual cars from GM have been as good as those from the top-ranked makes for a few years now. GM now seems to be figuring out the ownership experience part that some brands have hung their hat on for a long time now.