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Industry Slips Overall; But Ford And Hyundai Gain In New Car Quality Study

DETROIT (WWJ) - One year after dominating JD Power's Initial Quality Study, General Motors saw its ratings slip a bit in the 2014 study, with Ford and Hyundai gaining ground.

The slippage comes, as GM launches a lot of new products. While those new products generate larger profits, they also generate big complaints. GM's biggest launch in the past year is an all new series of full-sized pickups.

[LINK: 2014 JD Power Initial Quality Study]

"The outgoing models were outstandingly good," said JD Power Vice President of Automotive David Sargent. "The incoming models were about average. That was still enough to send GM falling in the rankings a bit."

General Motors still saw its vehicles finish first in six categories. While that's down from the eight awards they picked up last year, it's still better than any other automaker.

The Initial Quality Study surveys owners on issues with their vehicles that crop up in the first ninety days. Sargent says the trend has been toward a steady improvement. But, 2014 was an exception.

"Overall, problems in the first ninety days of ownership increased this year, which is unusual. It's not unheard of, but it is unusual."

Part of it was the complexity of vehicles. But, another part is the way those vehicles dealt with a very rough winter in many parts of the country.

"What we found is the vehicles which were sold in the cold weather states had a fairly significant increase in problems," said Sargent. "Where the vehicles that were sold in warm weather states didn't show any increase in problems at all."

Porsche was the top brand overall, followed by Jaguar and Lexus. Hyundai showed the most improvement, moving up to fourth place, as the top non luxury brand.

"Anytime you place between Lexus and Toyota in a quality study, you're doing a pretty good job," said Sargent.

Toyota finished in fifth place, Chevy in sixth.

Mitsubishi, Jeep and Fiat finished at the bottom of the J.D. Power Rankings.

Ford and Lincoln showed a lot of improvement, with both brands finishing above the industry average. Sargent says part of that is because of improvements in "My Ford Touch" and "My Lincoln Touch."

"They've made a lot of changes, and those improvements are starting to show through."

Other brands, Sargent says, are now starting to see more complaints as they work thorough issues in their newer connectivity systems.

Generally speaking, complaints are about systems that are not related to the operation of the car. Sargent says you see far fewer issues with vehicles that stall, or break down.

But there are complaints about the feel of the engine. That's often related to new transmissions and technologies that are designed to improve fuel economy.

We're also seeing more technology on vehicles that warn you when somebody's in your blind spot, when you're drifting out of your lane, or when a collision may be imminent.

Sargent says we're seeing more complaints about false or inconsistent warnings.

"I think people feel they're being 'nannied," he said. "Some consumers are looking to de-activate the systems because they are annoyed."

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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