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.

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JD Power customer retention survey hammers Saab owner loyalty

I think this is a blip, but there’s no doubt it’s a big, black blip.

The latest JD Power Customer Retention Survey shows what 12-18 months of overwhelmingly negative news, uncertainty and a damning news cycle can do in a market that’s big on leasing and regular turnover. Leasing can be great because it makes it easier for a customer to buy, but it also makes it easier for a customer to change and for Saab, the proof lies in the chart below.

Click.

As you can see, Saab comes in dead last with a customer retention figure of just 4%. This is disastrously low, especially for a brand that prides itself so much on the loyalty and love of former owners.

Now in its eighth year, the study measures the rate at which automotive brands retain their existing customers and the reasons why owners remain loyal. Customer retention is critical to a brand’s market success, particularly during the current period of slow recovery, in which each new-vehicle sale is vital.

The study finds that the importance of fun-to-drive vehicles as a reason for owner loyalty has increased by eight percentage points in 2010, compared with 2009. Meanwhile, the importance of resale value as a reason to stay loyal has decreased by 10 percentage points from 2009.

From what we know of the news stories surrounding Saab for all of 2009 and most of 2010, “Fun to Drive” was probably not so important for Saab customers as “Is the company still alive?”

The 2010 Customer Retention Study is based on responses from 123,601 new-vehicle buyers and lessees, of which 81,350 replaced a vehicle that was previously acquired new. The study was fielded between February and May and August and October 2010.

This is an especially bad result, but I regard it as a blip because it has to be viewed against a backdrop of extraordinary circumstances.

As mentioned earlier, Saab most likely lost a whole cycle of leasing customers between mid-2009 and mid-2010 and the struggle for Saab to get the word out about their very existence in the USA has been well documented here in the last couple of weeks.

I guess it just highlights exactly how much work has to be done. Yes, we need more Steve and Lori’s in this Saab world, but Saab also needs to get the message out to them with compelling product offerings and effective marketing.

Saab rises in the 2010 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study

The button dash wasn’t that squeaky, was it?? Say it ain’t so!
Results for the 2010 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study have been released today and it’s good news for the Saab marketing people. Saab have a had a massive climb up the rankings, are now the third-highest ranked European brand in the study and are pretty much on par with the industry average.
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The Vehicle Dependability Study measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (i.e. 2007 model year) vehicles. Saab recorded an average of 158 problems per 100 vehicles. The industry average was 155.
There has been some criticism of studies like these due to the nature of what owners can include as a “problem”, but I guess these manufacturers have to take the good with the bad. Saab have taken plenty of bad over the last few years, so they can enjoy the good for a change.
This result represents a massive jump for Saab.

  • In 2007 they measured 318 problems per 100 vehicles (MY2004) and Saab finished 4th last amongst all manufacturers. Industry average: 216
  • In 2008 they measured 258 problems per 100 vehicles (MY2005) and Saab finished 5th last amongst all manufacturers. Industry average: 206.
  • Just last year, in 2009, they measured 226 problems per 100 vehicles (MY2006) and Saab finished 6th last amongst all manufacturers. Industry average: 170

A finish this year in the middle of the table and incredibly close to the industry average is a massive improvement in results for Saab.
The major change in Saab’s model range for 2007 was the move from the button dashboard to a more conventional dashboard controls system in the Saab 9-3. This certainly reduced the complexity of the car and it seems it might have ironed out some problems, too.
It’s not something the marketing people can sell, necessarily, but it is one millstone removed from around their necks.
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Thanks to Kirk for the tip via comments and Yuri via email!

Saturday morning snippets – Seeya in January edition

Friday saw the last shift at the Saab factory for this year, with a 4-week vacation taking place of the normal 2-week break at Christmas.
It’ll be a nervous Christmas for all these workers, though, as a decision will be made during their break about Saab’s future.
All you Saab workers – we’re anxiously waiting, too. It can’t feel as nerve-wracking for us as it does for you, but know that we’re with you.
Work at the factory is scheduled to re-start on January 11.
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Top Gear drive and review the Saab 9-3x:
I said a few months ago that the modifications made to the SportCombi to bring about the 9-3x work really well, that they make the car make sense even more than usual. These guys seem to agree.

This is the best Saab on sale. I know, I know: right now, in the months before the new 9-5 big car and 9-4 crossover become available, being the best of Saabs is like being the healthiest patient in intensive care.
But it’s better than that. If you’re in the market for one of those slightly jacked-up, slightly toughened-up four-wheel-drive estates, this is very possibly the one to go for……
It’s one of those cars that feels at home with itself. All the dynamic attributes rub along nicely with each other.

And of course, it gives me an opportunity to post one of my favourite Saab 9-3x photos 🙂
Saab 9-3x
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There’s more bad JD Power news for Saab this morning, with the brand doing particularly poorly in the 2009 Customer Retention Study.
Saab came dead last in the survey. The typical industry retention rate is 48% and Mercedes Benz scored the highest for customer retention, at 67%. Saab scored 9%.
That said, the reasons why are pretty easily explained. A company in turmoil, ownership uncertain, 60%-plus drop in sales, no leasing, bottomed out trade values. All of this is caused by uncertainty.
It’s not good, but it’s nothing that a couple of good years can’t turn around if Saab get the chance.
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Now that the northern winter is well and truly in effect, GM Europe are trumpeting their fantastic all wheel drive system in the Open Insignia.
Developed for adaptation to front-wheel drive platforms by Saab.

Used Saab 9-3 scores well in German defects report

Here’s a nice way tos tart the working week, especially if you’re considering the purchase of a not-quite-new Saab 9-3.
German magazine Auto Zeitung has published a report covering cars from different classes. Radulf was kind enough to take a scan, make some highlights and send it in.
His notes:

Defects Report: Out of more than five million cars examined from the GTÜ, Auto Zeitung identified the most reliable used cars.
Here I send you the “Medium class” with SAAB 9-3: Not so bad at all!
From left to right we see them sorted by age “1 – 3 years” to “9 – 11 years”. One to five years, the 9-3 beats all German premium cars …

Click to enlarge.
AZ_GTÜ_2.jpg
This really is quite an impressive result and again raises the same old concerns about US ratings (where Saab doesn’t tend to do so well in reports like JD POwer, etc) – vs – European ratings (where Saab seem to do consistently better).
Thanks again to Radulf for sending it in.

GM and Saab Wednesday snippets

I haven’t covered GM much at all in the last few weeks. The less written about them the better as far as I’m concerned.
But does their recent backflipping on several things reek to anyone else?
Leading up to bankruptcy they were as contrite as a swagger-driven company could be. Yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir. Want us to change the old guard? Yessir! Our went Wagoner and Bob Lutz announced his pending retirement as well.
Then the very same day they emerge from bankruptcy proceedings as “New GM”, Lutz reverses his decision to retire and is retained as head of marketing.
Leading up to bankruptcy they were all about small cars and Volt Volt Volt. Now they’re out relative danger, they’re talking about keeping the RWD Commodore/G8 and talking up the Chevy Camaro like it’s an automotive god.
It’s salesmanship at its best and worst all at the same time. I wish them well, but I really can’t wait for Saab to separate from this crew.
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Automotive News report that RHJ International have put a figure on their bid for Opel, at around 300 million Euros in equity plus a whole heap in state guaranteed loans.
Magna is still the frontrunner, though, and I’ll be very surprised if Opel goes elsewhere. Talks with RHJ are nothing more than a sideshow.
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The mainstream automotive press has been given access to the 2010 Saab 9-5. The press must be preparing their reports for upcoming editions. These are real, photographable versions of the car rather than the test mules we’ve been seeing. The cars were handbuilt in Russelsheim and after doing their initial rounds for the cameras at press events and motorshows, they’ll most likely be used for crash testing or sent to the crusher.
The press are also having a chat with Saab people whilst they’re there and the results are starting to pop up in the press.
Unfortunately, I can’t get the links to work at the moment (not even the front pages of these sites will show up on my computer right now), but Whatcar and Car Magazine, both from the UK, should both have stories up there at the moment or in the next day or so.
Obviously, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see the photos, but hopefully the stories will give a good read.
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The latest info coming through on the Saab 9-3 is that it’s due to get another facelift for the 2011 model year.
This will not mean much in terms of exterior changes as I’m led to believe that the main focus of the facelift will be the interior.
And it’ll be most welcome.
The changes will most likely be to bring the car into line with the new Saab 9-5 and 9-4x that should be out by then.
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The NY Times keeps up some reporting pressure on JD Power over those Initial Quality Surveys.
Last report, we read how the Mini fared badly but sells incredibly well. The contrast was due to customer perceptions of initial quality being turned around by actual quality once they’d got used to the car.
Read: the customer isn’t always right. Sometimes the customer is an ass.
This time, the NYT is focusing on the inclusion of “brake dust” on the JD Power survey.
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A link was placed in comments by Gunnar and emailed to me by Mike L.
Nice.
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A look at the quality of JD Power’s quality survey

Good evening all. I’m currently on a wireless connection that’s the internet equivalent of trying to pee through a straw. I can only open one window at a time lest the web gods curse me for impertinence.
Entries are therefore brief. Even though I’ve been through the fire of owning seven Saabs and helping raise two teenagers, there’s only so much patience one can have……
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We all winced a little at the JD Power Initial Quality study that was released recently. Saab once again had a lower-placed ranking in what is, I believe, a flawed piece of work that gets far too much attention (says he who’s giving it more attention right now….)
The New York Times ‘Wheels Blog’ recently covered the survey from a singular perspective – the placing of the Mini.
Mini placed dead last in the survery, in case you didn’t notice or remember. That result surprised me, and it obviously surprised the NYT, too, so they looked into it a bit further.

……Mini has been a much-beloved brand with strong sales. Last week, Mini announced it would be adding 17 more dealerships in the United States over the next 18 months in anticipation of double-digit sales growth by 2011.
So what gives?
As it turns out, some of things that Mini owners absolutely adore about their little cars are also the “problems” that owners mark down in their J.D. Power quality survey.
“Mini has some idiosyncrasies that we engineer into our cars,” Jim McDowell, vice president of Mini USA, told The Associated Press (via MSNBC). As examples, Mr. McDowell cited the Mini’s unusual ambient interior lighting and windshield-wiper control, which is a button instead of a knob.
David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power, confirmed Mr. McDowell’s claims. “A number of Mini’s problems are related to the intuitiveness of the car’s interior dash controls,” he said. The Initial Quality Survey covers the first 90 days of ownership. And during that time, owners are still getting used to the controls of their cars.
One of the quirks of the J.D. Power survey, when it comes to the interior features category, is that it gives equal weight to items that are broken (and need to be fixed by the dealer) and items that are difficult to understand or use, or designed in a way that’s not so intuitive, Mr. Sargent said.

In the most basic terms, the survey’s a dud and JD Power acknowledge their own flaws.
I guess Saab’s job remains – continue to improve, work to get the message out to people and work even harder to get people to drive the cars.

Thanks Brooks!

German TUEV report on Saab 9-3 quality

As another follow up to the JD Power report from earlier today, I thought I’d pass on this TUEV report from Germany, which Fuzzi has emailed to me.
I’ve not included the various bits of text, but just these tables.
Apparently the Saab 9-3 is highly rated in this report, which came out in an edition of Autobild earlier this year.
I’m not sure exactly how to read these tables, but I’m sure we’ll get some assistance shortly, either via email or in comments. All I know is there’s a lot of green in the bottom table, which I assume is a good thing.
Click either to enlarge.
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