2011 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study puts Saab ahead of Industry Average

As you may have seen from Tim’s post on the Finnish reliability study earlier today, Saab’s dependability levels have been steadily increasing in recent years. This year’s gold standard of the auto industry’s efforts in increasing the reliability of their cars is out. The JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study makes headlines in the US, so much so that car makers who fare well like to brag about it in television, radio, and print advertisements as much as possible. This year’s study was formulated from the responses of almost 44,000 owners of 2008 model year vehicles.It covers 202 different problem areas from eight major vehicle categories, like engine and transmission, seats and exterior. Out of every 100 Saabs surveyed, 146 problems were reported. As has been covered here in the past, this could be something as simple as not understanding how to unlock the child safety lock on the back doors, no matter how small the problem– it doesn’t matter. If the customer thinks there’s an issue, it’s reported.

The industry average is 151, and for the first time Lincoln has beat the perennial winners Lexus and Porsche who scored 109 and 114 respectively. The most direct rivals to Saab fared worse, Volvo with 156, Subaru with 157, Audi with 161, and BMW with 164. If Saab doesn’t boldly point this out in future brochures or ads, there’s something wrong with their marketing department.

The complete list is after the break.

1. Lincoln: 101

2. Lexus: 109

3. Jaguar: 112

4. Porsche: 114

5. Toyota: 122

6. Acura: 123

7. Buick: 125

8. Mercedes-Benz: 128

9. Cadillac: 130

10. Hyundai: 132

11. Honda: 139

12. Ford: 140

13. Saab: 146

14. Infiniti: 151


15. smart: 152

16. Chevrolet: 156

17. Volvo: 156

18. Subaru: 157

19. Kia: 160

20. Audi: 161

21. BMW: 164

22. Scion: 166

23. Ram: 173

24. Mazda: 181

25. Nissan: 183

26. GMC: 184

27. Mitsubishi: 185

28. Suzuki: 190

29. Volkswagen: 191

30. Chrysler: 202

31. Land Rover: 212

32: Jeep: 214

33. Mini: 221


Some thoughts on the numbers

Amazingly Jaguar fared extremely well, most likely due not only to their emphasis on reengineering their entire model range but also streamlining engine and transmission options. What’s interesting is how poorly Land Rover fared given that they’re close relatives to Jaguar under Tata ownership and how they’re trying to align their engineering departments together. Time will tell if Land Rover will be able to reap the benefits of Jaguar’s quality control enhancements.

Mercedes-Benz has been on a consistent roll with quality control since splitting from Chrysler, which was at the bottom of the list. Toyota continues to be one of the most reliable brands, despite the brake debacle, as Lexus is way out front (though Scion is in the bottom third). BMW and Audi don’t come off looking too premium in this study, as they’re bookended by Kia and the aforementioned Scion. Ford is the biggest success story, with their premium line Lincoln crushing everyone in their path (but man are they ugly, seriously). I think what’s most impressive about this is that they’ve pushed extremely hard to incorporate high tech equipment that is likely to confuse their customers (MyFord Touch), yet actually had the effect of engaging the driver closer to the car. I think IQon will play a similar roll when it’s rolled out for the next 9-3.

Rounding out the bottom is Mini, which actually worries me a little bit. I’d like to study what they scored poorest on in detail once I have a better look at the study, but I’m praying it’s not from the engine portion of the survey, as we all know the next 9-3 will be using it soon.

All in all, this is a great result for Saab, and something the workers in Trollhättan should be very proud of. Hopefully the 2009 and 2010 models tested in the next surveys perform even better, well done to everyone at the factory who puts them together everyday.

39 thoughts on “2011 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study puts Saab ahead of Industry Average”

  1. All i can say is +1 and point up the tree to our beloved SWADE!!! This is manner from heaven especially whilst still runing a GM platform. Great news for BMW and Audi shoppers too!!,

  2. How would you market that though? Would you say “Saab is more dependable than BMW, Audi, Subaru and Volvo based on JD Powers survey” and if you did, would that bring people in the doors? I hope so, I think this is great news and shows that we are on the right path. I was somewhat surprised by BMW, but if things like “how do you work this or that?” can be on there, it makes sense, look at all the computer/nav related stuff on the X5….. I can see if a proper delivery is not done, customers would be flocking back thinking this doesn’t work right.

    • I agree Jason. Definitely something to consider, but for dealers it sure is nice to have the gold standard vehicle dependability study up on the wall showing that Saabs are indeed more reliable than most give them credit. It’s a lot easier to make a sale when not only can you offer free service for 3 years/36,000 miles but you have a proven source to back you up. Consumer confidence in Saab is the first thing that needs to be strengthened in order for sales to take off again in the US. This study goes a long way towards helping that.

      • Jeff,
        I haven’t scene this gold standard thing before, I too think that if there is such a thing that when you get stuff for the showroom with this gold stamp on it, it would look great for potential customers. Of coarse this would have to go further and be marketed by Saab directly on a global level. Dealers can only do so much themselves and Saab will have to toot their own horn as well. Good news which this is, is always good to have.

        • Off the top of my head, I’ve seen those stickers at Toyota and Acura dealers before, and have heard the JD power study tossed around in Lexus and Hyundai ads. The Japanese are good at capitalizing on the study. Just for comparative insight against Audi and BMW, I think it has value for the average buyer who has otherwise written Saab off as a lost cause.

      • “showing that Saabs are indeed more reliable than most give them credit”

        No, no, no, bad, baaaad. This comes over as if the dealers have to defend themselves for carrying Saab as a brand. And the only thing that they have to show is that Saab is just average? You only want to stick something like this on your dealer wall if your brand ends up in the first 5. In no way you want to have your Saabs come across as average (=mediocre?) cars.

        • I’m with on this one.

          Saab have climed and that is a good thing. But putting up ads and stuf to scream out that a saab is like avarage joe doesn’t seems good to me.

          And what’s up with the “if Saab doesn’t do this or that, they are doomed”. That isn’t a good standard of writing I think. It more like a fast comment, shot from the hipp and not giving it a thought. But that might just be me. If I offended anybody, I sorry for that.

          • Definitely not offended, I totally welcome a discussion on tone. I tend to be a little more shoot from the hip and independent as a writer, I tell you how I feel. I apologize if that’s polarizing, it’s just my tone. For the record I’m not saying Saab is doomed if they’re not doing anything, just that they need to continue to emphasize the fact that they outperform BMW and Audi any chance they get. A simple line like, “In the most recent JD Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, Saab outperformed Volvo, Audi, and BMW.” If they don’t do that, then yes, I think someone missed the ball on this story at SCNA. I definitely stand by that. Next time I might rephrase my words and say something like, “It would be great if Saab does,” instead of “If they don’t [do/say something], there’s something wrong with [them].” If you want happy/encouraging tone, you’ll get it from here on out. I’m just focused on getting the message to SCNA about what’s important to the average consumer confidence level to get someone interested in buying a Saab. Thanks TT 🙂

          • Thanks Jeff. I see your point. The positive take gives such a different tone wich make the hole article a bit more warm and fuzzy. 🙂

            On a side note, this SU continious to be a great starting point, or if you like: For me the Internet starts at SU

        • I have to agree that this isn’t necessarily something that you want to post on the walls at a Saab dealership – it’s good news, but not GREAT news. But, it’s pretty good ammunition if people start name dropping when cross shopping, especially considering that brands like Audi, BMW, Volvo and Infiniti didn’t fare quite as well. Also liked the above mention of the Mini concern and if any of those issues are stemming from the engine that will make its way to Saab…

  3. The JD Power surveys are notoriously subjective. in this case, especially the lumping together of each and every complaint is just plain bullshit (sorry). The participants are too much influenced by anything that they hear in the media and as such these kind of reviews will give totally unreliable results.

    • GerritN,
      If this is true though, wouldn’t that make it all the better for Saab? If influenced by anything, the fact that the brand seemed dead at one point would make people want to complain about anything to make sure they got it done under warranty. There is a real fear with people that if a company is no longer around that their warranty will be done(which wouldn’t happen), which would lead me to believe that more people would be complaining to if nothing else just make sure that nothing is wrong before that warranty is gone. I think it says a lot about Saabs and the people driving them and we can’t just say it doesn’t matter.

  4. This is good news, but has more to do with the JD power than SAAB.

    Since they measure every customer complaint, rather than actual problems, “quirky” brands like SAAB and MINI do badly. I’m sure part of the decision to move the window switches was partly due to this.

    I strongly suspect SAAB’s better ranking, and it good, is as much to do with the type of owners who have bought SAABs in the past 3 years — saavy ones.

    Oh, and small correction. M-B and Daimler had their own quality problems, but don’t blame Chrysler. Those germans came over and raped them. Salaries, contracts, etc. My theory is they got here, realized how messed up Auburn HIlls was, and decided to loot the place then get out. Glad to see the Italians are doing a much better job of management, since we and the Canadians still own the joint.

    • Totally agree with you charlie, but notice I never said that Chrysler was to blame. I’m just pointing out that it’s interesting that Mercedes-Benz is going up in the rankings while Chrysler continues to fall. Nothing to do with management, quality control, or who’s to blame. Mercedes got greedy and bold after Lexus took them to school in the 90s, and they’re finally getting their mojo back. I hope Chrysler under Fiat management can manage to do the same.

  5. Lincoln is at the top? Strange days. It’s good to keep things in perspective though, and that a straight ranking without the details isn’t the whole story. Still, kudos to Saab for being pretty high up there!

  6. It’s great Saab has climbed this survey steadily over the years. I’m on my 3rd and my ’07 9-3 has been leaps above the previous two. I had a few glitches when I first picked up at 40k miles, but last 25k has been awesome.

    Saab can utilize reliability without stating that they are just above average, they can do so by just marketing that they are reliable. All the companies have done that and it’s all about perception. Today’s cars are almost are very reliable, so it’s just getting that word across to the public.

    • I might be a bit blue eyed here, but my thinking of saab isn’t perseption, it’s the real deal. At least that is the way we have been spoken of fir a long time.
      I am actually a bit baised about all the things in the world shoul be persvieced in a certain way. What happend to letting the product speak for itself and letter the marketing teling that story.

      This is notonlt an automotive thing, this is happening in just about any kind of business.

      I now I would trust the guys and galls who sells the product for what it is instead of what they can convince me to think. (oh my god, that made me feel like 90 or somthing)

    • Great that an expert agrees with me!
      My first Saab came from Charles River Saab. Unfortunately we never met because I left Watertown in 1999, I think just before you joined CRSaab.

  7. Off TOPIC .but…

    I have noticed a very sharp decline locally in the availability of used Saabs at dealerships. My local dealer does not list a single one!! Others in the area have 2-3 when they used to have over a dozen listed at any given time.

    Anyone else see a decline in their area? not to panic, just an observation.

    • I’ve seen a sharp increase in a bit older 9-3’s on the street, most likely because all these used Saabs were sold at huge discounts in December.

    • Interesting observation. What do you think it means? Is it that they;re selling from used inventory but not replacing the inventory because people aren’t buying new Saabs and trading in? I checked Reinertsen’s website and they list 23 used Saabs. Is that because there’s no market for used Saabs or they’re taking a lot in trade-ins?

      • Im thinking….. just maybe dealers are not going out and buying many used Saabs at auction in order to push for more new Saabs to be sold off the lot.

        that’s just my random thought.

    • My first reaction is that it must be a good sign. If you don´t want a SAAB, then you don´t buy SAAB. Not even a used one. If you you´re in the market for a used car, you choose a brand of your liking.

      Yesterday I signed a contract for a 2010 9-3 convertible. What a BEAUTIFUL car that is! I may have a great spring and summer ahead of me 🙂

  8. Lincoln being number 1 is most interesting because when I spent several hours volunteering to promote Saab at the recent Milwaukee Auto Show, many present Lincoln owners were most interested in the new 9-5 which fascinated me.

    Because the Japanese ¥en is rising at its highest level since WWII new Japanese cars and parts will be more expensive to import but imports into Japan will be more expensive..This is part of the new puzzle that has formed during the last year. Honda which is a superb car is only just ahead of us.

    Last night I just returned from the UK where people remember Saab coming almost last and I was explaining what a load of bunk this was. Reputation is everything and we have to aim for number one. Why not? Victor explained how he wanted to do this, like quality badges, great interiors for a difference of $800, etc. In the past 40 years of motoring each Saab is evolving to the point that I am reduced to changing my own oil and the routine maintenance.

    I hope the UK market can return to its great past. The London City Government is proposing extreme taxation on 4-wheel vehicles for the purpose of social engineering. Saab GB owners (indeed all the World) unite. Promote, advocate, explain…

  9. Interesting, but pretty much every car is “reliable” these days. It is how you are treated after the sale and how warranty issues are handled three or four years into the life of the vehicle that really affect if someone has faith in a brand or vehicle. And if the manufacturer really stands behind there product.

    Once the new car smell wears off and things wear etc. is really determines how reliable a vehicle will be long term. Boring as Toyota’s are – they are notoriously reliable/trouble free for the first 120,000 miles or so (when they are not running into walls, of course). Minor problems occur but nothing like some other brands.

  10. Thank God, I’ve been having trouble handwaving this when people tell me Saabs aren’t reliable. My Saabs have all been reliable, but people can’t get past this stupid list.

  11. I just wonder why there seems to be a difference in the ranking between the web page with the sorting columns and the press release pdf, from which the above table is from.

    I think this report is at best useful for car forum discussions, not as marketing material.

  12. To the drivers of current edition of Saab, this news is really “no news”.
    In the last few years we ‘ve seen more reliability studies with good results for Saab (i.e. the Dekra reports. In the newer TUV- and ADAC-reports the Insignia scores well too. the Saab does not show up there because of too low appearance in the statistics).
    On a personal note: my Saab has now done 112.500 km in almost 5 years and three things have gone wrong so far: the washer pump, the coating of the knob of the glove compartment and the side of the seat cover (made of chicken leather in stead of real leather). If this car keeps behaving that way, I ‘ll never buy a new one again and driving it forever!

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