A recent study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) looked at driver fatality rates in 2009-2012 model year vehicles. The study found nine models that are so safe that they had a driver death rate of zero. (Only eight years ago there were no car manufacturers who could make this claim.) These mostly 2011 models, show how the chances of dying in a car crash have steadily decreased over the last few years. Improvements in car safety such as electronic stability control, which was not required by federal mandate until 2011, have been a huge factor in preventing automobile accidents. “We know from our vehicle ratings program that crash-test performance has been getting steadily better,” according to David Zuby, IIHS’ executive vice president. “These latest death rates provide new confirmation that real-world outcomes are improving, too.” Continue reading

Due to the federal government shutdown, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have announced that they will be forced to close several branches of the agency and cut back on over fifty percent of their employees. While functions funded by the Highway Trust Fund will continue; defect investigations, field crash investigations, review of consumer complaints, and notifications of new vehicle and equipment recalls will all be suspended. Continue reading

According to a 2012 Strategic Vision (SV) survey, consumer’s rate Volkswagen and Ford as having the highest quality ratings of all 2011 vehicles surveyed. The difference between Strategic Vision’s survey as compared to J.D. Power’s Quality Reports, done earlier this year, is that Strategic Vision uses what it calls the “Total Quality Index” (TQI). TQI not only rates vehicles by consumer complaints, but also takes into consideration the customer buying experience, vehicle performance and all around customer satisfaction. Strategic Vision has been working directly with automotive consumers since 1995, as well as maintains relationships with all major automotive manufacturers. This allows them to report on all aspects of the new car buyer’s experience.

This year’s survey questioned almost 40,000 people who bought model year 2011 vehicles between September and December 2010. Volkswagen came in first, mostly due to the success of the Golf, Jetta, and Tiguan. Despite complaints about about Fords infotainment systems; strong designs, technological innovations, and brand equity in the Mustang, Flex and F-Series trucks, gave Ford a second place. The biggest surprise came from the most improved corporation, Chrysler Group, who’s Dodge Charger and redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee excelled in innovation, influencing the perceptions of quality. Even though Toyota vehicles were reported to have the lowest actual problems, there were no Toyota vehicles in the top of the list. With all automobile manufacturers running the tightest “quality race” ever, customers are increasingly defining “quality” by using the Total Quality Index.

According to the 2012 J.D. Power & Associates quality reports, released earlier this week, automobile manufacturers are producing higher quality vehicles than ever before, except when it comes to audio, entertainment, and navigation technologies. The overall quality of all automobile manufacturers increased by 5% since the 2011 quality reports, but “problems” related to the usability of the systems increased by 8%.

David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power & Associates, says that this does not mean that the quality is getting worse. “At one time, these sophisticated technologies were found only on high end vehicles. Over the past couple years, it is becoming more prevalent in mainstream automobiles. An increase in users who expect the same innovative technology found in their smartphones can quickly become dissatisfied when they can’t get it to work. Automobile manufacturers are listening to the consumers and work hard to meet their expectations but need to keep safety in mind as well. There is a learning curve for drivers to get adjusted to new features.”

This is the 26th year that J.D. Power & Associates has done their initial quality study. It not only serves as an industry benchmark for initial quality measured by the consumer, but it is also used by manufacturers to help them design and build better vehicles. Initial quality is a sign of long-term durability, which directly impacts consumer purchase decisions.

Consumer Reports’ 2011 annual car reliability survey, seems to mimic JD Power & Associates annual automobile quality study, by reporting that the overall quality of 2011 vehicles has dropped. Ford, suffering the biggest drop, went from 5th to 23th spot, the biggest drop for any major automaker in Consumer Reports’ 2011 Annual Auto Survey. According to the report, the new Ford Explorer, Fiesta, and Focus all had below average reliability, but the problems were attributed to new technologies like the new MyFord Touch infotainment system and the new automated manual transmission. Chrysler had better results with its new Chrysler 200 (formerly Sebring) sedan, the redesigned Dodge Durango and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. Of the 91 Japanese models for which Consumer Reports collected data, 96%, were rated average or better in predicted reliability. These vehicles, however, offered little in new technology from previous models.