UPDATE - Firm Blames Data Glitch for Errors of Car Quality Survey

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

[Fair use for education and research purpose only]

Title: J.D. Power Issues Recall on Some Results of Car Quality Survey

Consumers: Firm blames data glitch for errors in latest report. Corrections affect standings in several categories.

By JOHN O'DELL, Times Staff Writer

LA TIMES, May 6, 2000

Product quality guru J.D Power & Associates got a taste of its own medicine, forced to correct its latest annual automotive quality awards because of, well, a quality-control problem.

A flawed data program overstated the number of problems that new-vehicle owners reported with traction-control systems, the Agoura Hills-based firm said Friday.

After dozens of Power associates worked through the night, a new tally changed the overall quality ratings and thus the order of finish in three vehicle and two manufacturing plant categories.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s Camry moved from second place into a tie for first with the company's Avalon model as the premium-level mid-size cars with the fewest problems. The Acura TL from Honda Motor Co. moved from second into a first-place tie with Toyota's Lexus ES 300 in the entry-level luxury-car class. And DaimlerChrysler's Dodge Caravan booted Honda's Odyssey out of third place in the minivan segment. The error also jumped Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., factory into first place for quality among U.S. auto plants, knocking the Toyota-General Motors Corp. NUMMI joint venture in Fremont, Calif., into second.

After alerting clients, Power issued a public correction Friday. But the firm is, after all, all about image. So words such as "error" and "goof" never appeared. Instead, Power called it a "reassessment" of "a small discrepancy in respondents' ratings . . . which has resulted in more good news for the automotive industry."

The good news? Well, instead of an industry average of 158 problems per 100 vehicles, as first reported in the 2000 Initial Quality Study released Thursday, it turns out there were only 154 problems--an overnight improvement of 2.5%.



-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), May 06, 2000


Computer error erases NUMMI award


Fremont's NUMMI plant, crowned as the best auto plant in America by J.D. Power and Associates on Thursday, lost the honor Friday after a computer error was found.

Power, the Agoura Hills firm that has been rating car defects and owner satisfaction and making the results public for two decades, discovered ``a small discrepancy'' in the just-released 2000 Initial Quality Survey. Power described the problem as a ``programming error'' in tabulating survey respondents ratings of vehicle traction- control systems.

The good news is that, overall, cars are of slightly better quality than Power had reported Thursday. The bad news for New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. is that a shift in the numbers dropped the plant from first to second on Power's list. Toyota's Kentucky manufacturing plant, which had been told Thursday that it was second, moved into the top spot.

``We regret the mistake and we're extremely disappointed, but we'll continue to strive toward low defects on our vehicles,'' NUMMI President and CEO Kanji Ishii said in a statement released by the plant.

The irony for NUMMI is that Power's new numbers show its defects per 100 vehicles dropped from 100 to 98. But the Kentucky plant's numbers fell more, from 101 to 96.

``It's been a devastating thing for all the employees around here,'' said Tom Shaver, a Power senior partner and former auto-industry executive. ``We pride ourselves at being a quality operation. We're human.''

Shaver said he didn't think Power had ever made such a mistake.

For its annual Initial Quality Study, Power surveys 47,000 owners of vehicles after 90 days of ownership about 135 specific areas where problems can occur.

On Thursday, NUMMI executives stopped the assembly line and gathered all employees to share the good news. On Friday, night-shift workers were informed of the error via e-mail and fliers. Power wasn't able to contact NUMMI with the news until after day-shift workers departed at 2:30 p.m.

NUMMI had been planning to present all of its workers with commemorative leather jackets in recognition of the Power gold award. It's unclear whether that will happen now. The plant had won Power's second-place silver ranking twice previously, in 1999 and 1994.

NUMMI's two small sedans, the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Prizm, remained unchanged as the leaders in their compact-car class. Several others categories changed, however, as the Toyota Camry tied the Toyota Avalon as the most defect-free premium mid-size car, the Acura TL tied the Lexus ES 300 as the best entry luxury car and the Dodge Caravan replaced the Honda Odyssey as the third-place compact van.

NUMMI, a joint venture that makes the Corolla and Tacoma for Toyota and the Prizm for General Motors, employs 4,700 people. http://www.mercurycenter.com/business/top/053844.htm

-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), May 06, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ