Reflecting on Initial Quality

While not Lexus specific, Joseph B. White of the Wall Street Journal has taken a deeper look at J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey and is driven to wonder, Is Initial Quality still relevant?

J.D. Power TrophyNow, most of the major auto makers have made so much progress, that the Power Initial Quality Survey has less to offer the consumer.

Let’s stipulate that most journalists should not be allowed to analyze statistics in public. But this example isn’t that hard. Lincoln scored 100 problems per 100 cars. That means, on average, buyers of new 2007 model Lincolns reported one problem per car to J.D. Power.

Mercedes owners reported 111 problems per 100 cars. Put another way, the Mercedes owners identified, on average, 0.1 more problems with each individual vehicle than did the Lincoln owners.

Except, there is no such thing as 0.1 of a problem. Problems are like pregnancy. It’s all or nothing.

This echoes my own thoughts while reviewing the recent results, the margins are incredibly thin — practically every automaker can build a car that remains relatively trouble free for three months(with the exception of Land Rover, seemingly).

This doesn’t necessarily make the Initial Quality Study obsolete, especially when you consider the significant weight it has with the general car-buying public. No matter how tiny the difference between rankings, low scores mean bad press. Mercedes-Benz illustrates this point perfectly. Constantly ridiculed for their poor results, MB took considerable action to raise their score this year, jumping from 25th place to 5th.

I would consider long-term tests much more important, but it stands to reason that a vehicle that posts worse-than-average scores in the first 90 days of ownership has the potential for more headaches years down the road.