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GM Scores Big in Latest J.D. Power Quality Study

General Motors Co. models captured eight vehicle categories in this year’s J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey—five more than any other carmaker.

Power announced the results of its 2013 survey on Wednesday to the Automotive Press Assn. in Detroit.

The poll rates vehicles in terms of complaints per 100 units. The data were collected in an extensive survey of 83,400 owners during the first 90 days. This year’s results cover 33 brands, 209 models and a roster of 135 worldwide assembly plants.

Power updated its questionnaire and switched to an invitational online format, so this year’s findings don’t directly compare with last year’s results. But as always, lower scores mean higher reported quality.

This year’s top five brands and their scores are Porsche (80 problems per 100 vehicles), GMC (90), Lexus (94), Infiniti (95) and Chevrolet (97). The bottom five are Scion (161), Fiat (154), Mitsubishi (148), Nissan (142) and Mini (135). The industry average is 113.

Nearly two-thirds of complaints this year are about design issues—electronic features that are difficult to use, for example—rather than malfunctions, such as loose trim or misbehaving transmissions, says David Sargent, Power’s vice president of global automotive.

The most-mentioned flaws this year are voice recognition systems (by a wide margin), Bluetooth connectivity features, wind noise, interior materials that scuff or soil easily and clunky navigation systems. Sargent notes that none of these issues relates to reliability, which, along with exterior styling, is the top reason buyers cite in selecting a new vehicle.

The best-scoring specific model of any kind this year is the Porsche 911 sports car (64), which Power classifies as a midsize premium sporty car. The company says all other sports cars it evaluated ranked below the industry average.

Ford’s perennial best-selling F-150 pickup truck was outscored by Chevrolet pickups this year. Sargent notes that the Chevy trucks are end-of-cycle models that benefitted with lower-tech content. He say scores for all Ford vehicles continue to be dragged down by complaints about the carmaker’s pioneering MyFord Touch telematics system.

“Ford took one for the team,” Sargent points out. “Somebody had to go first.” He says the company is trying to improve the system as quickly as possible. But he predicts owner complaints about the technology will continue to hurt Ford scores for a few more years.