The Real Detroit Three Stories in JD Power’s Latest Initial Quality Report: Ford’s Ascension, GM’s Deterioration

FordYesGMchryslerNo1109When it comes to the performance of the U.S.-headquartered Detroit automakers once known as the Big Three, the real news in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Initial Quality Study (IQS) is not what the Associated Press's Stephen Manning wrote in his Thursday coverage ("US cars top foreign brands on quality survey") of Power's pronouncement. While barely true and in a sense historic, it's not even in the neighborhood of being the big story.

Because of its timing, Power's IQS is as good a report card as any out there on the job President Barack Obama's car czars and his apparatchik management appointees have done during the past year in improving the quality of the vehicles produced at government-controlled General Motors and Chrysler.

Previous work I did in connection with two other AP reports on perceived quality -- one in April (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), and one in mid-May (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) -- caused me to detect a distinct aroma of propaganda-driven misdirection in Manning's missive. A detailed look at J.D. Power's report reveals the full extent of Stephen's stench.

Succinctly stating AP's inversion of reality with a strange assist from a Power spokeperson, Manning treated us to the following paragraphs:

U.S. automakers have long lagged foreign brands, especially those from Asian manufacturers like Toyota, which many consumers believe produce higher quality cars and trucks than General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. 

But J.D. Power said Ford Motor Co. showed some of the biggest gains in quality among individual brands, moving into the fifth spot. Porsche was the top scorer. Toyota Motor Corp., which has suffered through huge safety recalls earlier this year, saw its score drop.

"Domestic automakers have made impressive strides in steadily improving vehicle quality," said David Sargent, J.D. Power's vice president of global research.

Sorry, folks, it just ain't so. Only one domestic automaker "has made impressive strides." Another has seen initial quality during its first year of government control go from a few points better than average to a few points worse. The third has gone from absolutely awful to still pretty bad.

The numbers, absent the pap from Power's PR pumper, tell the true tale.

First, here's how the Detroit Three's brands fared (weighted average results are based on individual brand sales during the first five months of 2010):

JDPowerDetroit3Results2010v2009

Ford, which was already better than average in 2009, went to way better than average. General Motors went from a bit better than average to a bit worse. In 2009, Ford barely beat out GM in initial quality by 1.5 points. In 2010, the gap turned into an 18.6-point rout.

In fact, GM is in greater danger of being passed by Chrysler, which "improved" (i.e., got less awful) by 10.5 points. GM's 2009 lead over Chrysler of 30 points shrunk to 11.3 points in one year.

Then there's this enhanced graphic showing all brands, with each of the Detroit Three's individual brands compared to 2009:

JDPowerDetail2010v2009

Every brand ahead of Ford is in the luxury category. One luxury brand not ahead of Ford is Cadillac, which tumbled mightily, to worse than average.

The reality is that the two auto-industry bailout projects of the Obama administration and the UAW are badly lagging in a critically important objective measurement metric. The larger of the two has seen a serious decline. The smaller entity, while improving a bit, is still seriously trailing the rest of the industry. The one U.S.-headquartered entity that hasn't been bailed out is getting it right at an unprecedented level.

How Stephen Manning can write what he did with a straight face is beyond me. 

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.