Recent Study Ranks Today's Top Vehicles

Physician's Money Digest, August31 2003, Volume 10, Issue 16

It's said that physicians must havea reliable car to get them to andfrom their vital duties as healers.So, how does your car rate independability? Check out how yourcar ranks in the recently released JDPower and Associates 2003 VehicleDependability Study (VDS).

The VDS, which measures problemsreported by original owners of2000 model-year vehicles at 3 years ofownership, is an important marketgauge. According to JD Power andAssociates (, 52%of new vehicle buyers indicate thatlong-term durability is among themost important qualities in a vehicle.

The study rates dependability byautomaker and vehicle brand. It alsolists the top 3 models in 17 differentsegments, from compact cars to fullsizevans. The top 5 automakers inorder of ranking were Porsche,Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and BMW.The automakers that didn't fare aswell, placing low in the rankings,wereDaewoo, followed by Suzuki, Volkswagen,Isuzu, and Hyundai.

Top brand performers were Lexus(ranked first for the 9th consecutiveyear), Infiniti, Buick, Porsche, andAcura.The brand with the most problemswas Kia, followed by Land Rover,Daewoo, Suzuki, and Volkswagen.


In general, Japanese-brandedvehicles dominate in terms of longtermquality. Meanwhile, the Europeansseem to have lost their edgeover US domestic brands. AlthoughAmerican and European cars rateclosely in terms of initial quality, substantialquality gaps appear in longtermdurability. On average, modelsby domestic automakers outperformEuropean models by 49 problems per100 vehicles at 3 years of ownership.

"Conventional wisdom said thatdependability was the property of theJapanese and the Europeans," saidJoe Ivers, executive director of quality/customer satisfaction at JD Powerand Associates. "While that's still truefor automakers like Toyota andHonda, it's no longer the case formany of the European automakers."

In fact, certain European brandsaren't living up to their sterling reputation."Porsche, Jaguar, Saab, andBMW perform well above the industryaverage in dependability, butmany other European brands arebought based on a reputation forlong-term quality and fall far short ofeven the average," Ivers said. "This isin stark contrast to the results of thefirst VDS, conducted in 1990, whenMercedes-Benz led the industry."

Interestingly, both Subaru andGMC performed considerably betterin dependability when measured at 3years than when measured at 90 days.At the other end of the spectrum isMercedes-Benz, which experiencesthe largest quality gap between initialquality and long-term quality measurements.Also deteriorating morerapidly than the average vehicle areAudi and Volvo.

Following is a list of the top 3 performersby segment:

  • Premium midsize: ToyotaAvalon,Toyota Camry/Camry Solara,and Buick Century.
  • Premium luxury: Lexus LS400, Infiniti Q45, and BMW 7 Series.
  • Mid-luxury: Acura RL, LincolnTown Car, and Buick Park Avenue.
  • Luxury SUV: Lexus RX 300,Infiniti QX4, and Lexus LX 470.

Overall, Toyota boasts 9 modelswith top rankings, followed by FordMotor Company and General Motorswith 3 models, and Honda andPorsche with 1 model each. GeneralMotors has 12 models finishing in thetop 3 of the segment rankings, secondonly to Toyota with 13 models.


Toyota's excellent ratings may be1 reason why it also tops the targetlist of auto thieves. In 2002, for thefourth time in the past 5 years, theToyota Camry was the most stolencar in the nation, according to the latestreport from CCC InformationServices Inc ( The1989 Camry bumped the 2001 moststolen vehicle, the 1991 Toyota Camry,to the number 2 slot in 2002.

Overall,Toyota and Honda modelscomprise 20 of the top 25 moststolen vehicles. The Honda Accordis the most stolen vehicle regardlessof model year. "Vehicle theft historicallyfollows consumers' choices,which is reflected in the popularityof imports and the gaining popularityof minivans and SUVs amongthieves," explains Mary Jo Prigge,CCC Information Services' presidentof sales and service.

Of the 4 domestic vehicles tomake the top 25 list, all are trucks: the1994 Chevrolet C1500 4x2, 1997Ford F150 4x2, 2001 Ford F1504x2, and 1997 Chevrolet C1500 4x2.Chevrolet continues to lead the list asthe most stolen domestic make, regardlessof model, comprising morethan 14% of total theft volume in theUnited States.