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Auto Industry Achieves 10% Improvement in Initial Quality; Toyota Leads Nine of 16 Segments

May 30, 2002

In a market of steadily increasing quality expectations by consumers, the automotive industry improved initial quality by 10 percentover 2001, the largest quality improvement for the industry since 1997, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 Initial Quality Study(SM) released May 30. Initial vehicle quality has improved by 24 percent over the past five years."This kind of improvement in quality doesn't happen by accident," said Brian Walters, director of product research at J.D. Power and Associates. "It takes a concerted effort by the designers, engineers and assembly line workers of both manufacturers and their suppliers. Initial quality is an important driver to customer satisfaction with the ownership experience and has far-reaching impact on brand reputation."Toyota Motor Sales models virtually sweep the seven truck segments, with the exception of the full-size SUV category, which is led by the FordExpedition."With truck sales now surpassing 50 percent of the light-vehicle market, truck quality is critical to automakers," said Walters. "Toyota Motor Sales' consistency in building truck models with high initial quality certainlygives them an advantage."Of the 16 segments included in the study, Toyota and Lexus models lead nine segments, the most earned by a corporation in 2002. General Motors Corp. is the best-performing domestic manufacturer in the study, with four models earning top rankings, including the competitive premium midsize car segment. GM's overall third-place finish is the best ever by a U.S. automaker. Ford Motor Co., which includes Mazda, tops three segments.In addition to having a number of models topping segments in initial quality, Toyota Motor Sales and General Motors Corp. have bothdemonstrated above-average increases in quality, improving by 31 and 30 percent over five years, respectively.Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai are the most improved corporations in 2002, improving by 21 and 19 percent, respectively, over 2001. Hyundai Motor America has demonstrated the largest five-year initial quality improvementat 42 percent. Other above-average five-year quality improvements include American Isuzu (39 percent), Mitsubishi Motor Sales (38 percent) and DaimlerChrysler (27 percent)."Consumers have come to expect that the initial quality of their new vehicle will exceed that of their previous vehicle," said Walters. "If amanufacturer is not continuously improving its quality at a rate that meets or exceeds the industry average, it could be losing a quality edge to its competitors."At the model level, the Chevrolet Malibu made the biggest quality gain over the past five years, improving by 58 percent, followed by the Buick Century, Chevrolet Corvette and the Lexus GS Sedan, each having improved by 49 percent.Historically, it is unusual for an all-new model to top its segment in initial quality. However, the Ford Thunderbird debuts with an impressive top ranking in the competitive entry luxury segment. The Thunderbird is Ford'sbest-performing initial quality model in 2002.Car models ranking highest in their segment are:Compact Car: Toyota Corolla and Toyota Prius (tie)Entry Midsize Car: Chevrolet MalibuPremium Midsize Car: Buick CenturyFull-Size Car: Buick LeSabreEntry Luxury Car: Ford ThunderbirdMid Luxury Car: Lexus GS 300/GS 430Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS 430Sporty Car: Mazda MiataPremium Sports Car: Chevrolet CorvetteLight-truck models ranking highest in their segment are:Compact Pickup: Toyota TacomaFull-Size Pickup: Toyota TundraEntry SUV: Toyota RAV4Midsize SUV: Toyota HighlanderFull-Size SUV: Ford ExpeditionLuxury SUV: Lexus LX 470Compact Van: Toyota Sienna2002 IQS Assembly Plant AwardsToyota and General Motors dominate the plant awards for vehicles produced for the U.S. marketplace.Toyota's Tahara, Japan, car plant, which produces the Lexus GS 300/430 and the Lexus LS 430, receives the platinum award for best worldwide plant quality. Two other Toyota plants in Japan also earn awards in the Asia Pacific region.Effectively, General Motors sweeps the plant awards for North/South America, including a tie for bronze by its plant in Lansing, Mich., and the NUMMI plant, which is a joint venture between GM and Toyota. BMW receives the top two awards in the European region, with DaimlerChrysler earning the bronze. About the 2002 Initial Quality StudyThe 2002 Initial Quality Study is based on responses from nearly 65,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2002 model-year cars and trucks surveyed after 90 days of ownership.The study, now in its 16th year, is considered the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality. Industry initial quality stands at 133 problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles, a 14 PP100 improvement over 2001.About J.D. Power and AssociatesHeadquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction.The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually.
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