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Published: Friday, 6/24/2011

Redesigned or new '11 cars receive poor marks

J.D. Power and Associates gave high marks to the 2011 Honda Civic hybrid. J.D. Power and Associates gave high marks to the 2011 Honda Civic hybrid.

DETROIT -- Owners of cars that were new or redesigned for the 2011 model year are reporting more quality problems, partly because of glitches with the navigation screens, voice-activated systems, and other technology packed into their dashboards.

J.D. Power and Associates released its annual survey of new-vehicle quality Thursday. Lexus, Honda, and Acura were the top performers. Dodge was the worst-performing brand. Jeep was 25th out of 32 brands measured.

Top vehicles, based on number of problems cited per 100 vehicles sold, were the Honda Civic and Honda Insight hybrid (tie) for compact vehicles; Honda Accord for mid-sized vehicles; Honda Element for compact crossover SUVs; and Ford F-150 for pickups.

The three Toledo-made vehicles -- Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Liberty, and Dodge Nitro -- had more problems per vehicle than the average in their segment, compact crossover SUVs, said Dave Sargent, vice president of research for J.D. Power. He declined to reveal their specific scores, but said the Chrysler Group LLC's Wrangler improved from a year earlier, while Liberty and Nitro did not. The Jeep brand itself, he said, improved to 122 problems per 100 vehicles.

The survey questioned 78,000 people about the problems they had with 2011 model-year vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. Owners reported an average of 107 problems per 100 vehicles. That jumped to 122 problems for cars that were new or redesigned in 2011, up 10 percent from 2010 model-year cars and trucks.

J.D. Power said new technology was partly to blame.

"Clearly, consumers are interested in having new technology in their vehicles, but automakers must ensure that the technology is ready for prime time," Mr. Sargent said.

"There is an understandable desire to bring these technologies to market quickly, but automakers must be careful to walk before they run."

New technology was likely responsible for Ford Motor Co.'s declining quality. The brand dropped from fifth place in 2010 to 23rd this year.

Ford launched its My Ford Touch voice-activated dashboard system on the Ford Edge and the Ford Explorer in the 2011 model year.

The system allows drivers to control climate, navigation, entertainment, and other features by voice. Ford said earlier this week that 73 percent of owners with My Ford Touch say they're satisfied with it, but the company has acknowledged it's been difficult for some buyers to use.

Ford says it has made some software updates to make the system easier to use and is now offering workshops at dealerships to help owners.

Toyota Motor Corp. saw a big leap in quality, with the Toyota brand jumping 14 spots to seventh place. Its 2010 rankings were hurt by a series of safety recalls that year.

Also, Toyota introduced few new products for 2011, so it didn't experience the glitches other manufacturers did.

Cadillac and GMC, both General Motors Co. brands, and Mazda rose into the top 10 performers this year, while Hyundai and Ford's Lincoln luxury brand dropped out of the top tier.

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