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Europe chases Asia on quality
Asian car-makers still best for quality despite vast improvement from their European counterparts
24 May 2001
By JUSTIN LACY
EUROPEAN car makes have shown the greatest improvement in vehicle quality in the latest survey conducted by car industry analysts JD Power and Associates in the United States.
While Asian brands continue to set the standard, the 2001 Initial Quality Study shows the Europeans only marginally behind for producing vehicles with the fewest problems in the first 90 days of ownership.
The US study reveals the gap between the Asian and European car-makers is now just one problem per 100 (PP100) vehicles, closing dramatically from the 16 PP100 quality gap that existed last year.
Despite the improvement in the European product, Lexus continues to dominate other manufacturers in initial product quality, earning top honours in three out of the four segments in which it competes. Lexus' parent company Toyota also performed well and between them they secured seven awards in the 16 car and light truck segments evaluated.
Toyota had the compact car segment podium all to itself with the Corolla, Prius and Echo filling the first three places respectively. The Corolla won the class in the 2000 study as well, although the US model differs to the one sold in Australia.
The Toyota Avalon was the best premium midsize car, but the US model is the next generation car along from the one available in Australia. Honda's Accord came in third as the first Australian market model in that segment.
Lexus took out the entry luxury car segment with the ES 300 for the second year in a row, while its LS430 model continued in the LS400's footsteps by winning the premium luxury car category. Jaguar's XK models finished second, ahead of the BMW 7-Series.
European manufacturers displayed their improved form in the mid luxury segment, where the top three positions were filled by the Saab 9-5, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-class.
The Asian carmakers had a monopoly on the sporty car segment with the Acura (Honda) Integra, Mazda Miata (MX-5) and Toyota Celica recording the fewest problems in their field.
The entry and midsize SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) segments featured a mix of Japanese and American models, with the Honda CR-V the best entry SUV ahead of the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota RAV4, while in the midsize class the Nissan Pathfinder beat home the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Lexus dominated the luxury SUV segment, taking first and second placings with the RX 300 and LX 470 models.
Some of the most significant changes in this years study were Jaguar's 21 per cent reduction in problems since the 2000 study, while Jeep, Lexus and Volkswagen each improved by approximately 20 per cent.
Toyota's assembly plants were shown to produce some of the best vehicles in initial quality in the world, with its Kyushu plant in Japan leading all other Asian car plants. BMW's assembly plant in Munich, Germany was the leading European operation.
The Initial Quality Study surveys consumers regarding the problems they experienced after 90 days of vehicle ownership. All problems are weighted equally with overall performance compared across models and platforms, as well as by manufacturer and assembly plants.
Models ranking highest in their segment are as follows (highest ranking Australian market model in brackets, where information available): Car Segments Compact Car: Toyota Corolla (Toyota Echo) Entry Midsize Car: Nissan Altima Premium Midsize Car: Toyota Avalon (Honda Accord) Full-Size Car: Chrysler Concorde Entry Luxury Car: Lexus ES 300 Mid Luxury Car: Saab 9-5 Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS 430 Sporty Car: Honda Integra Premium Sports Car: Chevrolet Corvette (Honda S2000/Porsche Boxster tie) Light Truck Segments Compact Pickup: GMC Sonoma Full-Size Pickup: Toyota Tundra Entry SUV: Honda CR-V Midsize SUV: Nissan Pathfinder Full-Size SUV: Ford Expedition (Holden Suburban) Luxury SUV: Lexus RX 300 (Lexus LX 470) Compact Van: Toyota Sienna (Honda Odyssey)
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