June 19, 2010

The Real Detroit Three Stories in JD Power’s Latest Initial Quality Report: Ford’s Ascension, GM’s Deterioration

FordYesGMchryslerNo1109When it comes to the performance of the U.S.-headquartered Detroit automakers once known as the Big Three, the real news in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Initial Quality Study (IQS) is not what the Associated Press’s Stephen Manning wrote in his Thursday coverage (“US cars top foreign brands on quality survey”) of Power’s pronouncement. While barely true and in a sense historic, it’s not even in the neighborhood of being the big story.

Because of its timing, Power’s IQS is as good a report card as any out there on the job President Barack Obama’s car czars and his apparatchik management appointees have done during the past year in improving the quality of the vehicles produced at government-controlled General Motors and Chrysler.

Previous work I did in connection with two other AP reports on perceived quality — one in April (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), and one in mid-May (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) — caused me to detect a distinct aroma of propaganda-driven misdirection in Manning’s missive. A detailed look at J.D. Power’s report reveals the full extent of Stephen’s stench.

Succinctly stating AP’s inversion of reality with a strange assist from a Power spokeperson, Manning treated us to the following paragraphs:

U.S. automakers have long lagged foreign brands, especially those from Asian manufacturers like Toyota, which many consumers believe produce higher quality cars and trucks than General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

But J.D. Power said Ford Motor Co. showed some of the biggest gains in quality among individual brands, moving into the fifth spot. Porsche was the top scorer. Toyota Motor Corp., which has suffered through huge safety recalls earlier this year, saw its score drop.

“Domestic automakers have made impressive strides in steadily improving vehicle quality,” said David Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president of global research.

Sorry, folks, it just ain’t so. Only one domestic automaker “has made impressive strides.” Another has seen initial quality during its first year of government control go from a few points better than average to a few points worse. The third has gone from absolutely awful to still pretty bad.

The numbers, absent the pap from Power’s PR pumper, tell the true tale.

First, here’s how the Detroit Three’s brands fared (weighted average results are based on individual brand sales during the first five months of 2010):


Ford, which was already better than average in 2009, went to way better than average. General Motors went from a bit better than average to a bit worse. In 2009, Ford barely beat out GM in initial quality by 1.5 points. In 2010, the gap turned into an 18.6-point rout.

In fact, GM is in greater danger of being passed by Chrysler, which “improved” (i.e., got less awful) by 10.5 points. GM’s 2009 lead over Chrysler of 30 points shrunk to 11.3 points in one year.

Then there’s this enhanced graphic showing all brands, with each of the Detroit Three’s individual brands compared to 2009:


Every brand ahead of Ford is in the luxury category. One luxury brand not ahead of Ford is Cadillac, which tumbled mightily, to worse than average.

The reality is that the two auto-industry bailout projects of the Obama administration and the UAW are badly lagging in a critically important objective measurement metric. The larger of the two has seen a serious decline. The smaller entity, while improving a bit, is still seriously trailing the rest of the industry. The one U.S.-headquartered entity that hasn’t been bailed out is getting it right at an unprecedented level.

How Stephen Manning can write what he did with a straight face is beyond me.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


BizzyBlog Update, June 20: A few reinforcing points and clarifications –

  • The two bailed-out companies weighted-average 2010 score is 117.1, which is 8.1 points worse than the industry average. Without Ford, the U.S. auto industry would still be eating foreign-based car companies’ dust.
  • The two bailed-out companies weighted-average 2009 score was 115.0. Their combined 2010 performance was 2.1 points worse (117.1 minus 115.0).
  • Chrysler’s Ram brand, which made separate from other company brands in late 2009, was part of Dodge in the 2009 calculations.
  • This can’t be proven, but I believe that the quote cited above from Power’s Sargent is a very generic statement meant to relate to a several-year period. I believe that the AP’s Manning deceptively crafted the quote to make it appear as if it applies to improvements made during the past year, thus giving readers the incorrect impression that all three U.S.-based carmakers got better.

Gluttons for punishment who wish to reverse engineer the calculations in this post can go to these links for January-May 2010 sales by brand: Ford, GM, Chrysler.



  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom_Blumer, Sarah Hayes. Sarah Hayes said: BizzyBlog http://ht.ly/17ObsY [...]

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  2. [...] have all improved the quality of their vehicles during the past year. The truth (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog): Ford has, at a stellar level; GM has declined; and Chrysler, while improving, has merely started [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — June 22, 2010 @ 2:06 am

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