Twenty-five years into the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, consumers reported that automakers were headed in the wrong direction in 2014, which was the first time since 1998 that the industry as a whole slipped. Using the methodology of “problems per 100 vehicles (PP100),” the auto research firm surveys the experiences of drivers who own three-year old cars and trucks. In the 2014 report, the focus was 2011 model-year automobiles. If there were problems in the 12-month period, they get added to the PP100 rating, making higher ratings equate to poor dependability quotients.
It wasn’t bad news for every automaker. General Motors excelled in the 2011 model year with eight segment-leading vehicles while Toyota’s Lexus division was by far the most dependable brand in its third straight year of topping the list. Looking at the 133 PP100 average on the industry, Lexus was the only one to come in below 100 — it did so in style at 68 PP100. Here are the 10 that scored highest, making them the most dependable cars on the road.
1. Midsize Sporty Car: Chevy Camaro
Known for muscle first and everything else second, the 2011 Chevy Camaro stood head-and-shoulders above the pack in the 2014 J.D. Power dependability evaluation for midsize sporty cars. No other car even beat the average in this category, which left the Camaro alone in the winner’s circle. The average PP100 score in the 2014 survey was 133, which leaves the Mustang and Challenger from model year 2011 with some feedback issues.
Yet the midsize sporty car segment wasn’t the only one where no second-place finishers appeared. The compact sporty car segment, where J.D. Power slots cars such as the MINI Cooper, also didn’t have more than one car placing above the average.
2. Sub-Compact Car: Honda Fit
The 2011 Honda Fit took J.D. Power’s award for most dependable sub-compact car in the 2014 study. Carmakers who have ventured into this territory for the first time are finding the challenges of perfecting high-efficiency cars are considerable. Ford, for example, struggled with poor feedback from drivers who may have been adapting to downsizing in the engine department. While Ford may have solved its issues in the three years hence — judging by its booming Focus and Fiesta sales, it did — back in 2o11 the automaker hadn’t turned the corner.
Joining the 2011 Honda Fit on the podium were the Kia Rio in second place and Nissan Versa in third. Ironically, Kia sibling Hyundai and Nissan both shared a dip in overall reliability with Ford in the 2014 J.D. Power study.
3. Large Car: Buick Lucerne
GM notched another segment win in the large car category with its 2011 Buick Lucerne, which is one of two cars on this list no longer in production. In the 2014 J.D. Power dependability study, consumers cruising around town in a Lucerne had the fewest problems per hundred cars in consideration. The classic view of Buicks would suggest the automaker does right to please consumers in this bread-and-butter segment.
Placing behind the Lucerne were the 2011 Toyota Avalon in second and the 2011 Ford Taurus in third. In the nine car segments J.D. Power investigated, General Motors had four award winners for 2011 model-year vehicles.
4. Large Premium Car: Lexus LS (Tie)
Since Lexus blew away the competition in terms of dependability in the 2011 model year, the automaker has several segment award winners. The Lexus LS notched a score of 62 PP100, which was the best of any vehicle J.D. Power evaluated for its 2014 study. A score of 62 PP1oo bests Lexus’s lofty standard of an average 68 PP100.
Joining the 2011 Lexus at the top of the pack was the 2011 Cadillac DTS, which actually tied the 2011 LS with the highest score of all vehicles. No other entries in the large premium car segment bested the average.
The only way you can find a Cadillac DTS these days is on the used car market, but if you can land a discontinued model you’ll likely be taking it off the hands of an owner who reported very few problems. Only the Lexus LS could match the 62 PP100 score the 2011 Cadillac DTS landed in the 2014 J.D. Power survey of three-year old cars.
Cadillac’s DeVille Touring Sedan harkens back to the automaker’s big cars of decades past. DTS limousine models are popular as presidential motorcades, but otherwise vehicles this large are going the way of the dinosaur.
6. Compact Car: Chevy Volt
Though the Chevy Volt is often a punchline for electric vehicle haters, GM’s plug-in landed the highest rating of all compact cars from the 2011 model year. Though it is a feather in the automaker’s cap by itself, the segment win bodes well for the new Cadillac ELR as well. The first Cadillac electric car runs on the Volt powertrain.
Up on the podium with the 2011 Volt were familiar models from the compact segment. The 2011 Toyota Corolla placed second in dependability while the 2011 Honda Civic took third place.
7. Midsize Car: Toyota Camry
J.D. Power noted in the release of its study how dependability is tied to loyalty. It goes without saying that the widespread appeal of the Toyota Camry — the best selling car in the U.S. — feeds off this reputation in the auto marketplace. In the 2011 model year, no car ranked as high as the Camry in the midsize segment, which was the only car (not truck or van) with the Toyota nameplate to nab an award in the 2014 study.
Coming along for the ride were the Buick LaCrosse, which placed second in the midsize segment, and the Honda Accord, the Camry’s old rival that took third. U.S. drivers buy midsize cars more than any other segment.
8. Midsize Premium Car: Lexus GS
Brand dependability champion Lexus has another segment winner in the midsize premium category with the 2011 GS. In the past 20 years of the Vehicle Dependability Study, Lexus has placed first 17 times. Toyota’s premium brand was bumped out of first place only during the three years spanning from 2009 to 2011.
Placing behind the Lexus GS were the 2011 Mercedes E Class Sedan in second and 2011 Lincoln MKS in third. Mercedes placed second in overall dependability (fewest consumer problems reported per 100 vehicles) in the 2014 J.D. Power study behind Lexus.
9. Compact Sporty Car: MINI Cooper
Though the BMW MINI brand didn’t fare well in terms of overall brand dependability, it scored a “compact sporty car” segment winner with the 2011 MINI Cooper. The win was uncontested for MINI, which indicates there are no other cars in this category that can be deemed dependable above the average.
MINI was the worst car brand in overall dependability in the 2014 J.D. Power study with an average 185 PP100, nearly three times the number of issues that top-performing Lexus has with its vehicles from the 2011 model year. The other least dependable brands include Dodge (181 PP100), Land Rover (179 PP100), and Jeep (178 PP100). Chrysler Group cars and trucks from 2011 were definitely not pleasing customers.
10. Compact Premium Car: Lexus ES
In sweeping the three premium segments of the 2014 J.D. Power dependability study, Lexus proved why it had no equal among automakers producing cars during the 2011 model year. The 2011 Lexus ES nailed down the highest ranking in the compact premium car category by beating out another Lexus model from the same year.
Ford’s 2011 Lincoln MKZ took third place among compact premium cars while the 2o11 Lexus IS placed second behind the ES. Only BMW 3-Series and Mercedes Benz C Class cars sell better than the compact Lexus models in the United States. Likewise, the Lexus IS is one of the fastest gaining cars in the category. In 2013, Lexus made gains of 117 percent over IS sales from 2012. Dependability equals loyalty and high-volume sales.