The Least Dependable Cars in America

People buy cars based on personal appeal, price, performance, fuel efficiency and reliability. Reliability is among the most important factors for most consumers. A car or light truck that runs without problems saves its owner time, and most important, a great deal of money.

Read: The Least Dependable Cars in America

24/7 Wall St. looked at the recently released JD Power 2012 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. We reviewed the auto brands that received the lowest scores. The brands with the most dependability issues were examined to determine why they received such poor marks.

The JD Power survey is based on the responses of more than 31,000 original owners of 2009 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. Dependability is determined “by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.” The industry’s average for the current study was 132 PP100. The worst brands had more than 160 problems.

For one, many are niche brands. Seven of the nine brands have a U.S. market share of 3% or less. Mainstream brands such as Ford (NYSE: F), Chevy and Toyota (NYSE: TM), which have closer to 15% of the market, do not make the list. Is brand reliability related to market share? There is no evidence that is true.

Some small market share brands like Lexus get high quality marks. However, the small market share brands on this list do not have anywhere near the production quality of Mercedes or Lexus. They are lower end brands with small market share.

The effects of the Chrysler Chapter 11 filing in April 2009 are obvious when looking at the list. The survey measures the dependability of cars manufactured in 2009 after three years of ownership. When the 2009 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge models were manufactured, Chrysler was in great turmoil, including layoffs, management changes and plant closures — all of which can affect manufacturing quality. It should come as no surprise then that three of the brands on this list are part of that parent company.

The least dependable cars include nine brands that JD Powers’ 2012 Vehicle Dependability Survey lists as having the highest incidence of problems. The dependability number provided for each brand represents the number of reported defects per 100 vehicles — the higher the score, the lower the quality. Initial quality scores by brand and brand dependability scores for these automakers’ most popular vehicles also were reviewed.

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Brand satisfaction scores from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index also were included. Most of the brands on our list ranked close to the bottom in ACSI score relative to the other automakers. We also list what we consider to be the brand’s flagship vehicle — the most recognized and usually one of the highest-selling models of the brand.

These are the least dependable cars in America.