Corporate Eye

Lexus Loses J.D. Power and Associates Dependability Survey Top Spot – Three Brands Take the Lead

Since Lexus hit the luxury vehicle market, the brand has been extremely popular and closely associated with quality and reliability.  Those brand messages were supported year after year (since 1995) when Lexus took the top spot in the J.D. Power & Associates annual ranking of auto brands based on reliability (problems experienced by consumers after three years of ownership).  That is — until 2009.

The newest ratings from J.D. Power & Associates show the Lexus brand not only dropping out of the top spot in terms of reliability but actually dropping to #3.  So which brands stole spots #1 and #2 — Jaguar and Buick, which were up from #10 and #6 in 2008, respectively.  Bet you didn’t expect to see Buick there.  Other brands that followed behind Lexus were Toyota (who owns Lexus), Mercury, Infiniti and Acura.  And which brand came in dead last?  Suzuki.

This J.D. Power & Associates dependability survey rating is for the vehicle brands overall and includes all models under that brand name.  J.D. Power & Associates rates a wide variety of factors related to the automotive industry, and companies often use the ratings in advertising and promotions throughout the year.  Of course, we can assume Lexus won’t be releasing any ads this year that say, “Look — we dropped from 1st to 3rd in the J.D. Power & Associates dependability survey.  Now is the time to buy a Lexus!”  And the new tagline – “Beat by Buick” – now, that has to hurt the brand ego.

It’s important to point out that the differences between the top 3 in this survey are not that large (122 problems reported per 100 vehicles for Jaguar and Buick vs. 126 for Lexus; the industry average is 170).  However,  consumers are unlikely to be aware of how close the race was.  All they are apt to be aware of is that Lexus is no longer #1 (undoubtedly thanks to new Buick advertising — the brand that has the most to gain from its new rating) . 

Is this an example of a company that gets comfortable in its position of power and ends up losing ground?  It seems that’s the case.  Can Lexus turn things around and regain the top spot in 2010?  Will the study results hurt the Lexus brand?  Will it help Buick?  And what about Suzuki whose last place finish came down to a reported 263 problems per 100 vehicles?  What do you think?

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Nevertheless, Lexus is the Best ;)

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