New-Vehicle Owners in Japan Less Satisfied with Hybrid Quality

Atsushi Kawahashi

Owners of new hybrid vehicles in Japan indicate that their “green” vehicles meet expectations about fuel economy, but also say they have problems with the design of their hybrid vehicle controls and displays, according to our 2011 Japan Initial Quality Study (IQS), which is based on responses from more than 8,700 new-vehicle buyers during the first 2 to 9 months of vehicle ownership. The 2011 Japan IQS identifies problems in two distinct categories—quality of design, and defects and malfunctions—as measured by the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles (PP100).*

In this year’s study, 13% of new-vehicle owners in Japan say they own a hybrid. In addition, among owners of midsize models, nearly 50% own hybrids. As expected, almost 40% of hybrid-vehicle owners say they “strongly agree” that fuel economy is the most important factor when choosing a vehicle, which is twice as high as the percentage of non-hybrid-vehicle owners that puts fuel economy at the top of their list.

However, hybrid-vehicle owners also say they experience more problems than non-hybrid owners in two of the nine initial quality categories measured— audio/entertainment/navigation and features/controls/displays. Many of these hybrid owners reported problems related to design flaws in controls and displays and also said that features/controls/displays were not user friendly. Since a significant percentage of hybrid-vehicle owners are middle-aged and older, it will be critical for manufacturers to develop features, controls and displays that owners across a wide age range can operate without problems.

Fuel Economy a Concern for Minivan Owners

Fuel economy is also a concern for buyers of larger vehicles as well as compact and mini-car segment vehicle owners. Our study finds that owners of minivans, for instance, report problems with fuel economy relatively frequently. If manufacturers can still fulfill storage space requirements and improve fuel economy, there may be more growth in demand for environmentally friendly vehicles.

It’s noteworthy that in 2011, overall industry initial quality in Japan averages 109 PP100, which is close to the average of 107 PP100 in the 2011 US Initial Quality Study. Lower PP100 scores indicate fewer problems and higher initial quality. Among the 90 models included in the 2011 Japan IQS, three Toyota models receive awards for the fewest problems in three of four initial quality award segments. In addition, one of the three Toyota models, the Toyota Vitz, receives the best PP100 score in the Compact award segment and also has the fewest problems in the industry (73 PP100). The only other brand to receive a segment-level award is Suzuki, for the Alto, which has the fewest problems in the Mini-Car segment (75 PP100).Atsushi Kawahashi, director of the automotive division at J.D. Power Asia Pacific, Tokyo

For more details, please read the press release.

*The J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2011 Japan Initial Quality Study (IQS), formerly conducted as the Japan Mini-Car Initial Quality Study, has been expanded this year to include all registered vehicle types. The study examines 227 problem areas affecting quality across nine categories.

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