WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA – Initial quality in the automotive industry has improved significantly in 2008, with substantial gains demonstrated by nearly three-fourths of the 36 ranked nameplates, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Initial Quality Study (IQS). Overall quality improves to 118 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) in 2008, down from 125 PP100 in 2007.

The Initial Quality Study serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study is used extensively by vehicle manufacturers worldwide to help them design and build better vehicles and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions. Initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term durability, which can significantly impact consumer purchase decisions. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories — quality of design and defects and malfunctions.

The study finds that 86 percent of the overall improvement was due to advances in eliminating defects and malfunctions. Minimizing design problems remains a major challenge for the industry, particularly since new technology, such as navigation and entertainment devices, is becoming increasingly common in today's new vehicles.

The study also found that new-vehicle sales patterns in 2008 have shifted away from the largest models and toward smaller models.

Honda models captured three segment awards — more than any other nameplate in the 2008 study — for the Civic, CR-V, and Fit. Garnering two segment awards each were: Chevrolet (Malibu and Silverado LD); Dodge (Dakota and Durango); Infiniti (EX-Series and M-Series); Lexus (LS and RX); and Mercedes-Benz (CLK-Class and E-Class).

The Porsche 911 had the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 67 problems per 100 vehicles. Also receiving segment awards were the Ford E-Series, Lincoln Navigator, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Pontiac Grand Prix Sedan, and Toyota Sequoia.

For a third consecutive year, Porsche topped the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 87 PP100. Following in the rankings were Infiniti (which improves from 9th rank position in 2007), Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota, respectively. Audi posted the largest improvement in ranking, moving from 26th place in 2007 to 10th in 2008.

The Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, received the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles yielding the fewest defects and malfunctions. Averaging just 33 PP100, the plant produces the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, CLS-Class, E-Class Sedan, E-Class Wagon, and S-Class. Plant awards are based solely on defect and malfunction counts.

Among North and South American plants, the Toyota plant in Baja California, Mexico, which produces the Toyota Tacoma, achieved the Gold Plant Quality Award.

In the Asia Pacific region, Toyota's Fujimatsu, Japan, plant, which produces the Toyota Prius, received the Gold Plant Quality Award.

The 2008 Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 81,500 purchasers and lessees of new 2008-model-year cars and trucks surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 228-question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate problem determination and drive product improvement. The study was fielded between February and April 2008.