A vehicle is likely one of the largest purchases that many people will ever make. Such an investment deserves some research to be sure that you are meeting the most important requirements for your vehicle. There are many factors that contribute, depending on your location, usage, passenger needs, etc. but there is one quality that is consistently relevant to all car buyers: reliability.
In fact, the demand for reliability among drivers is on the rise. J.D. Power’s 2017 Auto Avoider Survey cites reliability as a top purchase reason for 59% of consumers (up from 55% in 2016). Only exterior and interior styling outrank reliability by a narrow margin, coming in at 62% and 61%, respectively.
How Reliability Relates to Quality
We’ve identified that the cost of quality is critical to manufacturers for multiple reasons—it’s important to note that quality is also the ultimate driver of reliability. Sometimes referred to in the auto industry as dependability, reliability is the ability of a vehicle to run consistently with few surprises. Obviously, this is desirable to consumers and supports brand loyalty. It also reflects the concept that good quality is an investment that protects manufacturers, their reputations, and their popularity.
Mechanical Field Failures
Field failures in the auto industry require recalls, which reflect negatively on brands in reputation and reflect in resale value. Media coverage is a given for recalls that affect a large number of vehicles or have significant consequences, such as malfunctioning airbags or major system failures. Brands experiencing high-profile failures may be impacted for years to come in the market, despite improving performance metrics, because the consumer opinion may take longer to recover than the vehicle performance itself.
Technology: A Feature or a Flaw?
Not all quality issues are mechanical; technology is being incorporated into vehicles rapidly, with features like Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition being touted as selling points and signs of luxury. However, these tech features also cause frequent complaints, as evidenced in the 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study conducted by J.D. Power. Consumer Reports has seen similar trends in their data, noting that owners of brand new vehicles are now more likely to experience issues than owners of older vehicles that contain fewer tech elements.
Safety features are also becoming more dependent on technology, such as collision avoidance systems. Cameras and monitoring systems in vehicles are increasing rapidly; in some cases they are actually becoming mandatory, such as backup cameras being required in all new vehicles as of last month. Reliability of these systems rivals mechanical systems in importance, particularly as drivers become increasingly dependent upon them to drive safely.
Quantifying Reliability for Consumers
There are plenty of reasons why reliability is important to consumers—knowing your vehicle will work when you hop in every morning saves you a lot of inconvenience and makes for loyal customers. But it’s important for manufacturers to quantify reliability in ways that appeal to consumers and support their brand. Some ways consumers can determine their best choice include:
Average number of repairs
How often is your vehicle likely to need attention, of any magnitude? What repairs seem to be most frequent? Squeaky brakes are a lot easier to deal with than sudden, major mechanical or technology failures.
Average cost to repair
When your vehicle does need maintenance or repairs are the parts economical or expensive? Are the parts common and easily accessible, or do you have to return to a dealer? OEM parts or components with unique sizing will likely be both expensive and limited in availability.
The cost to be a Beta Tester
Being the first to buy a new or updated model vehicle has appeal and prestige. But without data to validate the quality of your purchase, you might experience more issues than you would have with a tried and true vehicle. This is particularly true with models and technology features that are making their market debut. You’ll have to decide if owning the latest and greatest is worth the potential reliability issues.
Historical recall response
From airbags to technology, even the most reliable automotive manufacturers have experienced recalls. The important thing is how those recalls are handled. Are they acknowledged and resolved in a timely fashion? How does the manufacturer and your dealer support buyers during a recall?
Knowledge is Power
The great news is that there is a lot of data available for consumers, educating potential buyers and also proving that overall dependability of vehicles is on the rise. Taking the time to outline your priorities and then research your options will help you narrow your choices and select the vehicle that is most likely to be with you for the long haul.