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Subaru Gets Iced in J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study

J.D. Power just released their annual vehicle dependability study and Subaru has dropped even further from last year. Why such a low ranking?

Subaru is noted for their loyal customer base and having those customers come back and purchase their vehicles again. They have been recognized for superior safety, high residual values and being the best mainstream brand in North America in the past few years. Yet Subaru scored zero vehicles in the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study segment awards, and is below the industry average in the overall vehicle ranking for dependability. Why did Subaru rank so low in the study?

J.D. Power says the automotive industry in general is struggling with technology issues. Things like Bluetooth pairing/connectivity and built-in voice recognition systems misinterpreting commands are two issues most cited with consumers in the first 90 days of ownership. Subaru owners could be having issues with the vehicles technology, but it could run deeper for the brand.

Replacing components outside of normal wear

The study also revealed that only 33 percent of customers who had to replace a component outside of normal wear items, said they would definitely repurchase or lease the same brand again. This of course means a large percentage (66 percent) of customers with these issues say they would not purchase that brand again. This may be why Subaru is being ranked low and actually dropped from last years study by J.D. Power. It appears Subaru has two main issues.

Oil consumption issue

Subaru has been sued for having a potential oil consumption issue and some of their engines have been reported to use excessive oil. Torque News has reported on this issue extensively in the past and you can read more here. Subaru is attempting to settle with the owners who filed the lawsuit and has not said much in regard to the issue. The J.D. Power study does not reveal a specific brand’s reported vehicle problems, so we can just speculate as to why Subaru ranks so low.

Where did Subaru rank?

The Subaru brand scored a total VDS ranking of just 166 which is below the industry average of 152. The higher the number, the more problems the brand has per 100 vehicles according to the study. Subaru has even dropped from last year, when they had a VDS ranking of 157. While the number of engine/transmission problems decreases to 24 PP100 in 2016 from 26 PP100 in 2015, Subaru is experiencing some issues in this key area. It’s important to note that the study examines problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles. This is a key model year in the oil consumption lawsuit brought against Subaru. Is this the reason for such a low rating in this year’s J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study? It’s part of the problem for Subaru.

Lower interior quality

The Subaru brand actually scored lower in body and interior dependability than in engine/transmission problems. Lower quality interiors has been an issue for the brand in the past. They have made big strides in the past few years to improve this area of weakness. This won’t show up until next year’s study when they focus on 2014 model year vehicles. 2014 was when Subaru upgraded two of their vehicles in the lineup with the new-generation Forester SUV and Legacy sedan. 2015 was the year they upgraded the Outback wagon. Subaru’s rankings will come up, but it will likely take a couple more years as they are already addressing these two key dependability issues.

Source: J.D. Power

Image source: Subaru by way of Jason Markantes


John (not verified)    February 25, 2016 - 12:17PM

For me new cars all suffer from too much technology and engine management problems that goes with trying to reduce weight, improve MPG and still make vehicles bigger. Anytime you make something more complicated your going to create more issues. For me I have a 2011 Cruze from GM. Had 3 water pumps in 40,000 miles, 2 turbos replaced, and bluetooth is connecting about 50% of the time. Two big problems with engines and transmissions. On engines, the manufactures are pushing out smaller engines but facing them to output more horses, second the transmissions are pushing out more gears but reducing weight. Or using CVT trans. that are notorious for issues from any manufacture. All again, for better MPG. Some of these new cars will be a pile of junk when they are used.

Greg (not verified)    July 3, 2019 - 4:09PM

In reply to by John (not verified)

You spot on there. I'll never buy another new car for that reason. Over complicated plastic junk. I look at my 2007 CRV and compare that to what's on offer. I'm sticking with my Honda CRV. It's 2019 and in all those years I had the wiper blades changed and a very minor oil leak fixed. Subaru ha ha. People still buy them after the test drive. Amazing!

C. Schroeder (not verified)    February 25, 2016 - 12:17PM

Your article says "The study also revealed that only 33 percent of customers who had to replace a component outside of normal wear items, said they would definitely repurchase or lease the same brand again. This of course means a large percentage (66 percent) of customers with these issues say they would not purchase that brand again. "
The second sentence, however, does NOT LOGICALLY follow from the first. It should read. "This of course means a large percentage of customers with these issues say they - WOULD LIKELY - WOULD LIKELY NOT - OR WOULD DEFINITELY NOT - purchase or lease that brand again.

And, of course, we need to note 33% + 66% does NOT = 100%.

Conclusion: The author AND the editor both DEFINITELY (100%) could use a refresher of basic math and logic.

John Goreham    February 25, 2016 - 5:39PM

The weird thing about this is that I have tested and reviewed the Forester and Outback (twice) since their updates. I found the Subaru technology the perfect meld of modern, but user-friendly. I love that Subaru's touch-screens don't require a silly mouse and I love that they retained the volume knob. Eyesight is also amazing and completely hands-off unless you want to tweak its sensitivity. I would have guessed that Subie would have done better on this survey-based report. The Forester and Outback impressed me so much I am shopping one for myself as an '07 Highlander replacement.

tintin (not verified)    February 25, 2016 - 5:50PM

And yet Subaru has three of the top ten places in the Consumer Reports ratings, and was the number two SUV in the Road and Track ratings. So it sounds like the problems were with the 2013 model year, but the 2015-2016 model years have resolved the issues? My Outback is only four months old and 1900 miles on it, so it's too soon to tell, but so far I love it. Especially the EyeSight technology. I can drive down the freeway and neither steer nor touch the accelerator or brakes. The car does it all.

kds59 (not verified)    February 26, 2016 - 10:03PM

I have a 2015 Outback 3.6R Limited, loaded, Eyesight etc etc with 12,000 km in 11 months. So far, NOTHING wrong. This car has been completely reliable. All I've done is had the car in for an oil change and they did a thing with the Eye-Sight (was a recall) that was minor. I really don't get the whole JD Powers way of rating vehicles, I think they're somewhat bias. When the industry in general rates Subaru products above average, these guys rate them below? I'm also one of those repeat customers, I replaced my 1998 OB (had since new) with the 2015 OB. I'm not saying that Subaru is perfect, but it's better than below average. Bottom line, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to JD Powers and their ratings. Consumer Reports, and most of the auto industry journalist give me most of the purchasing information that I require. If I was going out to purchase a new vehicle tomorrow, it would be another Subaru product.

Che Robinson (not verified)    May 30, 2016 - 5:25PM

In reply to by kds59 (not verified)

The thing is -the heads on all Subarus prematurely fail always have and JD Power even mentioned-why? hasnt Subee ever? addressed it? cause they make piles of money fixing the heads. I own a 2015 Crosstrek-Not impressed with interior quality or the super thin paint,also have noticed the front end is weak on gravel type roads.Gets incredible gas mileage and we haven't had oil issues like so many have .Would we recommend? Nope.Poor -very poor fit and finish-if Paint is so scratch friendly...

Layla (not verified)    February 3, 2017 - 6:32PM

I'm going to purchase a subaru this year and am really excited, it will be my first big car purchase for me! I am however concerned because I am ignorant in understanding vehicle issues and what to believe and what not. I feel like I will not be disappointed with my purchase, but if anyone can give me some tips on what to look into pre-purchase I'd greatly appreciate it. I'm currently looking precisely at two CrossTreks one is a 2013 and the other is 2014.

George Miller (not verified)    March 7, 2017 - 9:07PM

I am on my fourth subaru and 3rd forester. Every subaru I have owned, including the 2017 Forester, burns excessive oil when you go to long between oil changes. All of these subarus had problems when I went over 3000 miles on an oil change. I now change my oil at 3000 miles and don't have any problems. The high rev engines along with the CVT transmission wears oil much more than a low rev engine. The oil that comes with it is junk. I swithched to Amsoil and I can go about 4100 miles before it starts burning oil. Good, bad, or indifferent, that's my solution. In my opinion, it is not good, but this works for me. I sell Amsoil and by it by the cases, and I can do an oil change in 12 minutes, so it is no big deal for me. I will say, no subaru will go 6000 miles (like they recommend) between oil changes without burning oil. I have been asked by subaru of santa fe, new mexico to sell cars every time I go there because I know more than the salesman that work there. The new Subarus need to be properly broken in, as stated in the owners guide. The sales man did not know this, Since your reading this, did you know Subaru will give you one free tire alignment and one free windshield wiper replacement with the new purchase of a vehicle? Yah, those dumb salesmen were not even aware of that either.

Sidney Goldstein (not verified)    August 31, 2017 - 10:21AM

A software update in 2017 changed the performance of my 2014 Forester drives. Not for the better: less performance and acceleration and 20-30% less mpg. Subaru says they can't do anything about it. Baloney.

Joe Collins (not verified)    July 1, 2018 - 4:45PM

I was thinking of buying a new 2019 Forester but have changed my mind after hearing about all the oil and engine problems Subaru is having. I'm glad to hear about all of this before I spent $30,000.