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Detroit cars beat imports in quality survey for first time since 2010

Argonne National Laboratory
An economist says the resurging domestic auto industry is helping the state get back on its feet (assembly of the Chevy Volt).

Good news for Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler from an influential survey of initial quality in cars.  

Renee Stephens of J.D. Power says overall, domestic car owners reported fewer problems in the first 90 days than import car owners.

"Domestics actually overtook the import brands this year for only the second time in the history of the study --  the last time was in 2010," says Stephens.

Another surprise was mainstream brands did better than luxury brands. That hasn't happened in the survey since 2006.

Overall, new vehicle quality rose 6%. That's double the usual rate of improvement.

Stephens says car companies in general responded to customer complaints about things like voice recognition and touch screens.

"Consumers are not finding as many issues," she says. "The buttons are bigger to press, it's much simpler to find in the menus the commands they're looking for."

Stephens says there are still a lot of of issues with some of the newer types of transmissions that are designed to improve fuel economy, sometimes at the expense of perceived performance.

But Fiat Chrysler, which experienced many of those complaints due to its new 8-and 9-speed transmissions, significantly reduced the number from last year, she says.

Chrysler and Jeep cars improved initial quality the most from last year, but Fiat cars stayed at the bottom of the rankings. Only Smart was ranked lower.

Of all carmakers, Kia performed the best, with customers reporting a mere 83 problems per 100 vehicles. 


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.