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America’s Most and Least Dependable Cars

Of the 31 automobile brands ranked in the 2019 U.S. vehicle dependability study conducted by J.D. Power, the Lexus brand from Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) topped the ranking for the eighth straight year. Porsche and Toyota brand tied for second. For the first time in the 30 years that J.D. Power has conducted this survey, mass-market brands scored better overall than luxury brands.

The Lexus had a problem per 100 (PP100) score of 106, slightly better than the Porsche and Toyota brands that both scored 108. The Chevrolet brand from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) posted a score of 115 to finish fourth in the ranking, just ahead of last year’s third-place finisher, Buick, which scored 118 this year to rank fifth overall.

The study was conducted from October through December of 2018 and surveyed nearly 33,000 car owners of 2016 model year vehicles after three years of ownership. Overall dependability is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, and the study included 177 specific problem symptoms grouped into eight major categories. A lower score is better.

The industry average score of 136 is six points better than last year’s average, but the rate of improvement is less than half the 14-point advance between 2017 and 2018. Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, noted the year-over-year improvement in the industry average score:

Vehicle dependability continues to improve, but I wouldn’t say that everything is rosy. Vehicles are more reliable than ever, but automakers are wrestling with problems such as voice recognition, transmission shifts and battery failures. Flawless dependability is a determining factor in whether customers remain loyal to a brand, so manufacturers need to help customers who are currently experiencing vehicle problems and address these trouble spots on future models.

BMW’s Mini brand ranked sixth with a PP100 score of 119, just ahead of the BMW brand that scored 122 to rank seventh. Volkswagen’s Audi ranked eighth with a score of 124, tied with Hyundai and just ahead of Kia’s score of 126.

At the opposite end of the rankings, the namesake Fiat brand from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) posed a PP100 score of 249, giving back more than half the year-over-year gain of 106 points it showed in 2018’s study. Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors, posted a second-worst PP100 score of 221, and Volvo, a division of China’s Geely, was third-worst with a score of 204.