Smooth ride for new vehicles as initial quality improves

Written by Sajan C Kumar | Chennai | Updated: Dec 1 2009, 05:06am hrs
Overall initial quality of new vehicles in India has improved notably from 2008 by recording 32 problems per 100 vehicles, according to the JD Power Asia Pacific 2009 India initial quality study released recently.

The study, which measures problems owners experience with their new vehicle during the first two to six months of ownership, examines more than 200 problem symptoms covering eight vehicle categories. These categories, listed in order of frequency of reported problems, include engine and transmission, vehicle exterior, driving experience, HVAC features, controls and displays, vehicle interior, seats, audio entertainment and navigation. All problems are summarised as the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). Lower PP100 scores indicate a lower rate of problem incidence and higher initial quality.

Overall initial quality of new vehicles in India averages 155 PP100 in 2009, compared with 187 PP100 in 2008. Among the 38 vehicle models included in the 2008 study, 25 show improvement by at least 10 PP100 in 2009.

Initial quality in the engine and transmission category improves more than in any other category, with 12 fewer PP100 than in 2008. Although excessive fuel consumption continues to be the single issue most commonly reported by owners, this problem area improves more than any other area, compared with 2008.

"Nine of 11 automotive manufacturers have improved in initial quality since 2008, and as an industry, manufacturers in India have consistently delivered increasing levels of initial quality throughout the years, said Mohit Arora, senior director at JD Power Asia Pacific, Singapore. "Ensuring high initial quality is particularly important during the current challenging market climate. Delivering initial quality is critical for building trust among owners and improving market share through referrals."

Two Honda models rank highest in their respective segments. The Honda Civic (46 PP100) ranks highest in the premium mid-size car segment for a second consecutive year, improving by 32 PP100 from 2008. The Honda City (79 PP100) ranks highest in the mid-size car segment.

For a third consecutive year, the Chevrolet Spark ranks highest in the compact car segment with a score of 116 PP100. The newly launched Maruti Suzuki Ritz ranks highest in the premium compact car segment with a score of 95 PP100. In the entry mid-size car segment, the Ford Ikon ranks highest with 90 PP100. In the MUV/MPV segment, the Toyota Innova (77 PP100) ranks highest for a third consecutive year.

"Incidence of problems, particularly during the initial ownership period, leads not only to increased dissatisfaction, but also to lower levels of loyalty and advocacy," said Arora. "Owners who report an initial quality problem are much less likely to repurchase or recommend the same make, compared with those who do not report experiencing a problem. Loyalty and advocacy intentions decline by 9 and 14 percentage points, respectively, among owners who report experiencing problems during the initial ownership period."

The 2009 India Initial Quality Study, now in its 13th year, is based on evaluations from more than 6,600 owners who purchased a new vehicle between November 2008 and July 2009. The study includes 50 vehicle models covering 13 makes. The study was fielded from May to September 2009 in 20 cities across India.