2011's Worst-Quality New Cars

Automakers are smart to crow when they earn coveted quality awards. But when the hammer comes down –particularly on brand-new vehicles — the results are usually kept a little more quiet.

One of the benchmark studies of new-vehicle quality has been released for the 2011 model year, and this time, J.D. Power’s 2011 Initial Quality Study found that the marked progress made in the past four years is over. While the overall number of problems per 100 vehicles fell, the number of problems for brand-new models was higher than usual.

The experts at Power have some explanations. In large part, they’re blaming hands-free communications systems like Ford’s Bluetooth-driven MyFord Touch, for creating problems with customer perception where more traditional quality perceptions like fit and finish had improved. Five years ago, connecting an iPhone to a car’s Bluetooth system wasn’t a common problem–but since then, Power says reports of problems with hands-free systems have skyrocketed, by nearly 240 per cent. 

In any survey, the winners get to trumpet their achievements. The losers move on to fixing their quality issues. And for 2011, the losers include some high-profile new vehicles just hitting showrooms. These vehicles earned two circles in the 2011 IQS study and are labelled “the rest,” the survey’s shorthand for cars that failed to wow their new owners.

Subcompacts, Compact Cars and Compact Multi Purpose Vehicles

Among small sedans and hatchbacks, the Power study brought some unwelcome news for the latest entries from Chevy, VW and Ford. Their newest offerings–the Cruze, the Fiesta and the Jetta–each placed at the bottom of their categories, with the Fiesta’s SYNC controller and the Jetta’s uninspired, plasticky interior driving scores.

Power IQS two-star ratings:

  • Chevrolet Aveo
  • Chevrolet Cruze
  • Dodge calibre
  • Ford Fiesta
  • Kia Forte
  • Mitsubishi Lancer
  • Nissan Cube 
  • Scion xB
  • Subaru Impreza
  • Suzuki SX4
  • Volkswagen Jetta

Crossovers and SUVs

While crossovers dominate the shopping lists of American car buyers more than ever, the newest crossovers are experiencing some teething troubles. The problems with the Ford Edge, Ford Explorer and Lincoln MKX were called out in particular by Power–but the Nissan Juke and MINI Countryman also have reason to be concerned, since their low ratings are matched by the low overall rankings of their brands.

Power IQS two-star ratings:

  • Audi Q5
  • BMW X3
  • BMW X5
  • Cadillac SRX
  • Dodge Journey
  • Dodge Nitro
  • Ford Edge
  • Ford Escape
  • Ford Expedition
  • Ford Explorer
  • Infiniti QX56
  • Jeep Liberty
  • Land Rover LR4
  • Land Rover Range Rover
  • Land Rover Range Rover Sport
  • Lincoln MKT
  • Lincoln MKX
  • MINI Countryman
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Nissan Armada
  • Nissan Juke
  • Porsche Cayenne
  • Volkswagen Touareg
  • Volvo XC90

Minivans and Pickup Trucks

Utility vehicles often have lower initial quality, because they’re made to be more rugged–but buyers tend not to rate them poorly because they expect them to be more basic. It’s notable here than none of the brand-new minivans for the 2011 model year–Odyssey, Quest or Sienna–were rated poorly by surveyed owners.

Power IQS two-star ratings:

  • Chevrolet Silverado HD
  • Dodge Ram 1500/2500
  • GMC Canyon
  • Kia Sedona
  • Nissan Titan

Sports Cars

None of the brand-new sports cars for 2011 were included in the lowest of J.D. Power’s initial-quality ratings, but the presence of BMW’s Z4 and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe suggests those companies will have to revamp their flagship sporty offerings to continue to build their reputations against the likes of the Ford Mustang and Porsche Boxster.

Power IQS two-star ratings:

  • BMW Z4
  • Hyundai Genesis Coupe
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse
  • Volvo C70

Sedans and Luxury Sedans

There’s trouble in the Power IQS survey for Buick and Audi. The volume sellers for both brands landed squarely at the bottom of this year’s initial quality study. Infiniti’s M and Jaguar’s new XJ also haven’t fared well, though the cars have been well-received by the automotive press.

Power IQS two-star ratings:

  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4
  • Audi A6
  • BMW 3-Series
  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Buick Regal
  • Chrysler 200
  • Dodge Charger
  • Hyundai Azera
  • Infiniti M
  • Jaguar XJ
  • Mitsubishi Galant
  • Suzuki Kizashi
  • Volvo C30
  • Volvo S60

This story originally appeared at The Car Connection

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