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You’d think that making the financial effort to buy a premium car over a mainstream model gives you that peace of mind in terms of reliability over the years. While that’s true in some cases, a new study shows that fancy cars actually have slightly more problems on average than regular models. The J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is out, and for the first time, mass-market brands have fared better on average than luxury brands.

The study shows there were on average 141 problems per 100 premium cars studied whereas mainstream vehicles encountered only 135 issues. The study was conducted between October and December 2018 based on responses from 32,952 original owners in the United States of 2016 model year cars.

However, the fact that premium cars had on average slightly more problems than mainstream ones doesn’t tell the whole story. For the eighth consecutive year, Lexus, a luxury brand, ranked the highest in the overall vehicle dependability among all brands, with only 106 problems per 100 vehicles. Another premium marque, Porsche, shares the second spot with Toyota, with 108 issues.

The 2019 edition of the annual study has a new award for the Most Dependable Model and that one goes to the Porsche 911. Overall, the vehicle dependability has improved on average by 4 percent compared to the previous year, with the analysis showing six fewer issues per 100 vehicles, now at 136. It’s also worth mentioning that for the first time in the 30 years of the study, all German brands were better than the industry average.

With an impressive reduction in problems of 65 per 100 vehicles, Chrysler was named the most-improved brand, followed by Mini with an improvement of 34 and Subaru with 31 fewer issues.

At the very bottom of the rankings, Fiat owners spent the most time at repair shops, with the study showing 249 problems per 100 vehicles. It was a similar story with Land Rover as J.D. Power discovered owners encountered 221 problems on average. It may come as a bit of a surprise, but 2016MY Volvos also had many malfunctions as the study shows owners had 204 problems per 100 vehicles.

Source: J.D. Power via Automotive News

Automaker                                                                                                                                                                                                           Problems per 100 vehicles
Lexus 106
Porsche 108
Toyota 108
Chevrolet 115
Buick 118
Mini 119
BMW 122
Audi 124
Hyundai 124
Kia 126
Infiniti 128
VW 131
Mercedes-Benz 134
Subaru 136
Industry Average                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       136
Nissan 137
Chrysler 146
Ford 146
Honda 146
Lincoln 147
Mitsubishi 158
Mazda 159
GMC 161
Cadillac 166
Jeep 167
Jaguar 168
Acura 171
Ram 171
Dodge 178
Volvo 204
Land Rover 221
Fiat 249
Segment Highest ranked Others ranked
Small Car Chevrolet Sonic Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa
Compact Car Buick Verano Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze
Compact Sporty Car* Mini Cooper Mazda MX-5 Miata
Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle* Kia Soul Toyota Prius v
Compact Premium Car Lexus ES Audi A5, Audi A4
Midsize Car Toyota Camry Buick Regal (Tie), Volkswagen Passat (Tie)
Midsize Sporty Car* Dodge Challenger  
Midsize Premium Car* BMW 5 Series Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz E class
Large Car Buick LaCrosse Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon
Small SUV Volkswagen Tiguan Buick Encore (Tie), Kia Sportage (Tie)
Small Premium SUV* Audi Q3 BMW X1
Compact SUV Chevrolet Equinox GMC Terrain, Toyota RAV4
Compact Premium SUV BMW X3 Porsche Macan, Infiniti QX50
Midsize Pickup Nissan Frontier Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon
Midsize SUV Hyundai Santa Fe Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander
Midsize Premium SUV Lexus GX Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLE
Minivan* Chrysler Town & Country Toyota Sienna
Large SUV Ford Expedition Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban
Large Light Duty Pickup* Toyota Tundra Chevrolet Silverado
Large Heavy Duty Pickup* Chevrolet Silverado HD Ford Super Duty
*No other model in this segment performs above segment average.
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