By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co. <GM.N> vehicles won eight awards in the annual J.D. Power & Associates survey of initial quality, a marked improvement since the largest American automaker turned itself around after a 2009 bankruptcy.
GM cars and trucks won eight top prizes as the best vehicles in their segments of the U.S. auto market in the survey of new vehicle owners.
Chevrolet, which accounts for 71 percent of General Motors' U.S. sales, jumped 10 spots to No. 5 on J.D. Power's initial quality ratings for 33 brands, the marketing information consultants said on Wednesday.
David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said GM has "done an outstanding job" of working to change the long-held perception that its products were of inferior quality.
"GM's always been good at improving a vehicle once it's come to market," Sargent said in an interview. "What they're also showing to be pretty good at now is launching vehicles with pretty good quality too."
In the past, Sargent said, GM often introduced new products fraught with problems and then improved those models over time.
The J.D. Power survey is in its 27th year. This was the first year that participants could fill out surveys online regarding their experiences in the first 90 days of new-vehicle ownership.
The survey was conducted from February to May this year, and all of the vehicles in the survey were 2013 models.
This year's survey was updated to add more consumer feedback on the quality of new technologies, including navigation, lane-departure, telephone, information-entertainment and voice-activated systems.
Sargent said that for the overall industry, quality slipped from last year, with the survey results showing more consumer dissatisfaction. That was largely due to expanded inclusion of new technologies in vehicles and consumers having difficulty using many of the new systems.
But Sargent added that more complaints were linked to design-related issues rather than a defect or malfunction that could more easily be fixed by dealers than in years past.
PORSCHE TOP BRAND
The best showing by brand, as measured in fewer reported problems per 100 vehicles, was Porsche <PSHG_p.DE>, the German luxury sports car maker, followed by GM's GMC marque, Toyota Motor Corp.'s <7203.T> luxury Lexus brand, Nissan Motor Co.'s <7201.T> Infiniti luxury brand and Chevrolet.
GMC, which jumped 10 spots in the ratings, and Chevrolet were the top-rated non-luxury brands in the survey.
The top 10 was rounded out by Honda Motor Co.'s <7267.T> luxury brand Acura, Toyota, Honda, Tata Motor's <TAMO.NS> luxury Jaguar brand, and Hyundai Motor Co. <005380.KS>.
The industry average was 113 problems reported per 100 vehicles. All of GM's brands, including Cadillac and Buick, performed better than the industry average.
Non-luxury brands that scored better than the industry average were, in order of finish, GMC, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Kia Motors Corp. <000270.KS> and Chrysler Group LLC's namesake brand, Chrysler. Chrysler Group is majority owned by Fiat SpA <FIA.MI>.
Ford Motor Co.'s namesake brand remained in 27th place. Sargent said that while the automaker has improved on its touch-screen and voice-command controls, it has also offered its information-entertainment systems on more models, which opened it up for complaints.
"(Ford's) systems themselves are getting better," he said.
Falling the most spots from a year ago were Nissan's namesake brand, which dropped 14 places to 30th, and Chrysler's Ram truck brand, which skidded 14 slots to 28th.
Scoring the worst on the survey were the Fiat brand at 32nd and Toyota's Scion brand at 33rd.
Winners of some of the non-luxury best-in-segment awards were the Toyota Camry for midsize cars, Honda Civic for compact cars, Chevrolet Impala for large cars, Chevrolet Silverado for large pickup trucks, Honda CR-V for compact crossover vehicles, Nissan Murano for midsize crossover vehicles, and Chrysler Town & Country for minivan.
For more details on the study, go to www.jdpower.com/quality.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Dan Grebler)