J. D Power, the world leader and trusted advisor in consumer insights and brand performance has released their 2018 UK Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and there have been big changes since last year.

The study uncovered many more reports of problems from premium brand car owners than from those who drive volume brand vehicles and the problem is in-vehicle technology.

A clear winner

The J. D Power Vehicle Dependability Study — now in its fourth year — examines issues by the original owners of vehicles after one to three years of ownership and looks at those problems experienced within the past 12 months.

This UK VDS, conducted between February and April of this year, used the responses of 13,536 owners of new vehicles registered between February 2015-February 2017.

The top 13 best-performing cars in the UK are volume brands, with Hyundai ranking the highest—an improvement on an already superb fifth place, in 2017, and it doesn’t stop there for the Korean car manufacturer, who ranked well in the segment categories, too.

Hyundai i10 came top in the rankings for Best City Car, with the Hyundai i20 placing second in the Best Small Car category, and the brand ranked third highest for the Best Compact Car, with their Hyundai i30.

2018 Nameplate VDS Ranking

Problems per 100 vehicles (PP100)

Hyundai 78
Suzuki 87
Kia 94
Skoda 97
Nissan 100
SEAT 102
Dacia 105
Peugeot 107
Toyota 109
Vauxhall 113
Honda 115
Ford 116
Volkswagen 119
Mercedes-Benz 124
Mazda 127
Industry Average – 128
Jaguar 137
Volvo 138
Renault 139
Mini 153
Citroen 164
Land Rover 169
Audi 175
Fiat 177
BMW 192

What is the study measuring?

The principal measure of vehicle reliability involves the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100). The lower the score, the greater the quality of the vehicle and Hyundai ranked highest here, too, with a score of 78 PP100. Mercedes-Benz (124 PP100), ranked 14th overall on the 2018 VDS and were the highest-ranking premium brand of vehicle.

J. D Power examined 177 problems from eight categories, including features, controls, displays, engine, and transmission.

The Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Index measures satisfaction of car owners on a 1000 point scale. The industry average is 767, yet when any of the 10 most severe problems with in-vehicle technology occur, the APEAL index drops by 5-13%.

Fifty-four per cent of drivers of cars where none of the top 10 problems occurred said they ‘definitely will’ buy or lease the same brand of car again compared to only 37% of drivers who encountered one of the top 10 highest-severity problems.

Technology malfunctions

New and emerging in-vehicle technologies are wonderful when they work, but owners of premium cars report in-vehicle technology malfunctions, which continue for 12-36 months of vehicle ownership or lease.

Among the six most common owner-reported problems in the UK VDS included pairing and connectivity issues with Bluetooth devices, commands not being recognised with voice recognition technology, and—although not a commonplace problem—issues with engine and transmission continue to be of concern for motorists, due to their costly and sometimes dangerous consequences when they fail.

Despite the technological advancements made within the automotive industry, the biggest problem drivers face is of engines not starting.

Part of the reason premium brand vehicle owners are reporting more car problems is that the premium brand manufacturers are incorporating ever more complex features into their models, and, as we know, the more features something has, the greater the opportunity for things to go wrong.

Josh Halliburton, Head of European Operations at J.D. Power said, “Automotive systems are more complex than they’ve ever been and premium brands especially are incorporating autonomous driving building blocks—adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic braking—into their models.

“It’s imperative for manufacturers to address this issue in order to improve the level of consumer trust in the technology.”

It’s worth noting, that as the 2018 models aren’t in the study, we don’t have a complete take on the current vehicle reliability situation and of improvements that manufacturers may have since made.

Will you switch brands?

Overall, the study gives motorists a good idea of the car brands that are most reliable and those who aren’t doing so well. Comparing results from the 2017 VDS also highlights which car manufacturers are improving and who hasn’t had a good year for complaints.

Take Romanian manufacturer, Dacia, for example. In 2017, they ranked 21st overall, with 151 (PP100). In the 2018 VDS, they’re in sixth place, scoring an impressive 105 (PP100). On the other end of the scale, the Swedish manufacturer, Volvo has fallen from an amazing joint first place, in 2017, with a score of 83 (PP100) to now having a score of 138 in 2018 and placing 17th, overall.

BMW, despite seeing a slight improvement in the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles in the past 12 months, have remained at an unimpressive last place for vehicle reliability.

The results of the study are, perhaps, most useful to those motorists who buy cars less than three years old, but whether we buy new or older cars, many drivers will have both their favourite brands and those they avoid.

Car brands develop stereotyped identities and we don’t always choose a certain brand after examining accurate and current information, but get swayed by a mixture of experience with a model of car and information—correct or not—we pick up along the way.

Do the results of the study match up to how you feel about certain brands of cars? What information do you use when deciding which vehicle to buy or lease? Are you an owner of a premium car with in-vehicle technology problems? Tell us in the comments.

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