Fuel consumption has replaced squeaks and rattles as the most common problem with new vehicles, according to the vehicle quality satisfaction survey. File Image: IOL
JOHANNESBURG - Fuel consumption has replaced squeaks and rattles as the most common problem with new vehicles, according to the latest vehicle quality satisfaction survey conducted by Ipsos.

Patrick Busschau, the automotive director for Ipsos South Africa, said yesterday that it was not surprising that bad fuel consumption was the most common complaint from owners surveyed in light of the sensitivity all consumers felt towards the fuel price.

“This was the case in all but five of the 16 segments surveyed. The exceptions were ‘inadequate performance’ in the entry, compact car and extra-cab pick-up segments, while ‘roadholding’ was the most common problem area reported for multi-purpose vehicles.

“Sport and luxury car owners complained most about ‘information system malfunction’,” he said.

Busschau said quality levels in South African passenger cars and light commercial vehicles were generally impressive and continued to improve for both locally produced and imported models, despite vehicles becoming far more complex.

The number of defects per 100 vehicles improved to 69 defects last year from 73 in 2016 and 81 in 2015.

The Ipsos vehicle quality satisfaction survey underwent a major revamp in 2015 when it not only measured the number of defects but also vehicle design issues or irritations that owners had experienced.

Busschau said this was to enable Ipsos to generate more detailed feedback from customers, because the defects per 100 vehicles had plateaued.

He said a slight upward weighting was applied to the defect measurement and slight downward weighting to the design element, because defects had more of an impact on the propensity of customers to recommend and stay with the brand.

Before this change in the scoring system, the figure for defects reported by owners in 2014 was only 37 per 100 vehicles, an all-time low after 23 years of vehicle quality measurement by Ipsos and its local predecessors.

The vehicle quality satisfaction survey is completed by vehicle owners at about 90 days of ownership, with the lower the defects per 100 vehicles, the better the quality of the vehicle.

Busschau said zero defects in a vehicle was no longer a differentiating factor, with the individualised capacity of the vehicle to meet the customers’ needs now the differentiating factor.

But Busschau stressed that this was not to say defects were not an issue.

“They still are and you do get a differentiating element. There is a reason why certain production facilities are better than others,” he said.

The research data used in the latest survey was obtained last year from more than 7 000 customers from 16 participating brands, which represented 73percent of the new vehicles sold in South Africa via the dealer channel last year.

Busschau said brands that did not participate in the survey included Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Kia, Hyundai, Porsche and some smaller brands.

Toyota improved on its 2016 performance in the latest Ipsos vehicle quality awards, achieving 13 gold awards from 16 categories compared to nine gold awards. Volkswagen was the runner-up with eight golds.

Toyota collected seven gold awards in the passenger car category, Volkswagen and Audi five each, Honda three, Opel two and Ford and Nissan one each. Toyota was also dominant in the light commercial vehicle category.

* See iol.co.za for the individual vehicle rankings.