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Initial Quality of Newly Launched Vehicles Suffers Big Decline

Ford dropped from 5th to 23rd place in this year's study.

The initial quality of new cars, trucks and SUVs launched this year “has declined considerably,” according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 U.S. Initial Quality Study released Thursday. Despite the quality decline of newly launched vehicles, overall initial quality is “higher than it has been in the past six years,” J.D. Power reports.

The study, which measures owner complaints at the 90-day mark, looks at owner-reported design-related problems and defects and malfunctions, and is then recorded as the number of problems per 100 vehicles.

J.D. Power says that the initial quality of newly launched 2011 models (brand-new or received a major redesign) is down 10 percent compared to 2010. This bucks an upward trend the past few years, where newly launched vehicles saw increased improvements in initial quality. Carryover vehicles have “better initial quality than ever before,” according to the study.

J.D. Power points to vehicle infotainment systems and engine and transmission problems as the two main culprits for the decline in initial quality for newly launched vehicles.

"Successful companies will be those that can take this incredibly complex technology and make it reliable, seamless and easy for owners to operate while they are driving," says David Sargent, VP of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates, in a statement.

Infotainment systems, navigation and touch screens help make lives easier, but some drivers find them confusing or distracting.

“Problem rates for audio/entertainment/navigation systems in 2011 are 18 percent higher than in 2010 and 28 percent higher than in 2009,” The Detroit News reports.

Ford, who fell to the 23rd spot in this year’s study, received complaints about its touch-screen infotainment system, MyFordTouch.

“Ford’s decline in the study is primarily driven by consumers reporting both usability problems and actual functionality problems with the MyFordTouch system,” Sargent told Bloomberg. “Some consumers are saying the system is, let’s be kind here, more complex than they would like.”

A few highlights of the 2011 J.D. Power IQS include:

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