Trillium Automobile Dealers Association

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Quality tops price, safety among car buyers

Published on Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sandy Liguori - Tada President 2011-2012

In the 1970s, one could be forgiven for thinking that quality wasn’t a top priority for most automakers.

During that era, I worked in the collision repair side of the business, and I saw more than my fair share of rusted and broken automobiles that needed body work. By today’s standards, cars produced back then were clunky, inefficient and prone to rust.

Vehicles produced today offer more standard features and accessories, better handling, greater comfort and improved fit and finish. Indeed, for all automakers, quality has become a mantra and a mission.

To measure the level of quality, automakers rely on several key indicators, such as customer surveys, consumer reports, automotive journalism and independent research firms.

A respected authority in measuring new car quality and long-term dependability is J.D. Power and Associates. A positive rating by this influential research firm can lead to greater sales, market share and loyalty among car buyers.

An unflattering rating can have the opposite effect. It sends design teams and engineering departments back to the drawing boards to address problems resulting from poor customer satisfaction reports and consumer ratings.

Design and engineering teams also rely on feedback from dealership technicians across North America. Technicians play a crucial role in compiling data and analysis that manufacturers use to fine-tune auto parts, components and systems.

J.D. Power and Associates publishes several surveys on the quality of new vehicles. One of the most anticipated surveys is the Initial Quality Study, which measures new vehicle quality after 90 days of ownership.

The company also publishes a Vehicle Dependability Study, which reports problems experienced after three years of vehicle ownership.

In the 2011 Dependability Study, 43 per cent of owners who reported no problems with their vehicle said they “definitely will” purchase the same brand again. Among car owners who reported one or more problems, that figure dropped to 28 per cent.

Automakers pay close attention to the results of these reports to gauge the quality and dependability of their products, since long-term dependability has a positive influence on re-purchasing intent.

How important is quality for consumers about to make a purchasing decision? According to a survey conducted by U.S.-based Car Max Inc., quality is the number one issue among new car buyers, ahead of price and safety.

This preoccupation with quality indicates that car buyers are extremely concerned with the present and re-sale values of their purchases. Clearly, consumers want vehicles that won’t break down and they want vehicles that will retain their value over time.

This makes sense given the increased lifespan of passenger vehicles today – a trend that can be directly attributed to continuous improvements in quality and a relentless commitment to innovation.

A recent study by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reported that the number of vehicles on the road that are 16 years and older has increased by 20 per cent in the past five years. During that same period, vehicles on the road that are between five and 10 years old rose by 29 per cent.

The issue of quality has a direct correlation to another aspect of the auto industry, warranties. In recent decades, as automobile quality has improved, automakers have felt increasingly confident in extending the length of warranty coverage on new and pre-owned vehicles.

A standard factory warranty on new passenger vehicles and light trucks is three years and at least 60,000 kms (whichever comes first). Factory extended warranties are also available that provide consumers with safety and assurance for a longer period of time (150,000 kms or an additional three years) and better resale value.

If you plan to purchase a new vehicle this year, rest assured that the quality of the average new automobile today (and the value of your purchase) is far superior to most makes and models available in the 1970s.

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