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Why GM dominates 2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

GM is the surprise winner in what matters most, dominating the large vehicle categories. Lexus and Toyota still make the best big luxury car and mid-size family car. BMW wins zero categories.

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The big news this year in the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS) is that Toyota and Lexus did not win everything. Equally interesting to auto-watchers is that General Motors, Chevy in particular, is coming on strong. The Lexus LS was (still) the highest ranked vehicle overall, Porsche moved up to the number one spot overall and Chevy was number five. However, GM won every category that brings it the most revenue, and the one it really needs to win to stay competitive.

That category is pickup trucks. Sure, the Toyota Camry is still the number one mid-size family car in the study, what did you expect, but the 400,000 or so Camrys Toyota will sell this year do not bring Toyota anywhere near the revenue that the 900,000 or so pickup trucks and brute utes General Motors will sell.

Here are just some of the categories that General Motors won:
Large CUV (Brute Ute) - Chevy Tahoe
Large Premium CUV (Bling Bling Brute Ute) - Cadillac Escalade
Large Heavy Duty Pickup Truck - Chevy Silverado HD
Large Light Duty Pickup Truck – Chevrolet Avalanche (tied with below)
Large Light Duty Pickup Truck – GMC Sierra LD
Mid-Size (which means big) Sport Car – Camaro
Large Car – Impala

That my friends is a sweep of the most profitable vehicles made on the planet Earth, and sold in the United States. Apparently GM can make big things very well. And unlike the Lexus LS and the Mazda Miata, both of which sell about 500 to 700 per month, these big, heavy, fuel guzzling American vehicles are churned out by the thousands per day at a nice profit margin. General Motors really wouldn’t mind being the best in those niche categories, but it would not make GM any richer if it was.

If manufacturers want to win this award going forward the message from customers (via the study) is stop making the infotainment systems so complicated. The IQS measures design defects as well as manufacturing defects. That means that if you press the voice command button in your $105,000.00 Tesla and it doesn’t do what it should it has a design defect. That exact scenario played out for us in a test drive of the Tesla Model, S illustrating perfectly what frustrates new car owners more than anything. By the way, it wasn’t us trying to make it work, it was a person employed directly by Tesla whose business card reads “Product Specialist.” Commenting on this David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said "Automakers are investing billions of dollars into designing and building vehicles and adding technologies that consumers desire and demand, but the risk is that the vehicle design, or the technology within the vehicle, in some cases may not meet customer needs. Keep in mind that automakers are trying to design vehicles that appeal to a broad array of consumers, and what works for the majority may not work for all. The successful companies will be those automakers that find a way to give customers the technology they want while at the same time making it sufficiently intuitive so all customers find it easy to use." Nearly two-thirds of the problems reported in the first 90 days are design defects like the Tesla example, not broken parts.

General Motors should be commended for their many wins this year in the IQS, and Toyota may want to do some soul searching. Not as much as BMW should though, since not a single BMW was to be found on the J.D. Power and Associates summary page of winning models.

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