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J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Three Automotive Plants in Germany Receive Initial Quality Awards, Including Platinum Quality Award for Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen Plant

DRUCKEN

LONDON, June 4 /PRNewswire/ --

- Porsche Ranks Highest among Nameplates in U.S. Initial Quality Study for a Third Consecutive Year

The Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen, Germany, plant receives the Platinum Plant Quality Award, while two other German plants also receive awards, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 U.S. Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS) released today.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050527/LAF028LOGO-a)

The Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, receives the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles yielding the fewest defects and malfunctions. Averaging just 33 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), the plant produces the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, CLS-Class, E-Class Sedan, E-Class Wagon and S-Class. Plant awards are based solely on defect and malfunction counts.

Porsche's Stuttgart, Germany, plant, which produces the Porsche 911, receives the Silver Plant Quality Award for the Europe region. The BMW Regensburg, Germany, plant, which produces the BMW 3 Series earns the Bronze Quality Plant Award.

For a third consecutive year, Porsche tops the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 87 PP100. Following in the rankings are Infiniti (which improves from 9th rank position in 2007), Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, respectively.

"Porsche continues its steady improvement and has succeeded in distancing itself from its second-ranked competitor to a greater degree in 2008 -- by a gap of 11 PP100 -- compared with 3 PP100 in 2007," said Brian Walters, vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "Mercedes-Benz also continues to make gains in initial quality, improving by 7 PP100 since 2007, and garnering two model-level awards for the CLK-Class and E-Class."

Other 2008 Plant Quality Award Recipients

Among North and South American plants, the Toyota plant in Baja California, Mexico, which produces the Toyota Tacoma, achieves the Gold Plant Quality Award.

In the Asia Pacific region, Toyota's Fujimatsu, Japan, plant, which produces the Toyota Prius, receives the Gold Plant Quality Award.

2008 U.S. Initial Quality Study Findings

The U.S. Initial Quality Study serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership. The study is used extensively by vehicle manufacturers worldwide to help them design and build better vehicles and by consumers to help them in their vehicle purchase decisions. Initial quality has been shown over the years to be an excellent predictor of long-term durability, which can significantly impact consumer purchase decisions. The study captures problems experienced by owners in two distinct categories -- quality of design and defects and malfunctions.

Initial quality in the automotive industry has improved significantly in 2008, with substantial gains demonstrated by nearly three-fourths of the 36 ranked nameplates. Overall quality improves to 118 PP100 in 2008, down from 125 PP100 in 2007.

"Due to some strong new-vehicle launches, in addition to a continued reduction in the level of defects and malfunctions, overall quality improves by 6 percent in 2008, compared with 2007," said David Sargent, vice president of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. "This gain is driven not only by strong advances from many of the high-volume brands such as Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, but also by very significant improvements by many other automakers. This industry-wide improvement is a testament to the effort that automakers are putting into listening to the voice of the customer, and the hard work they have undertaken to integrate that feedback to design, engineer and manufacture better-quality vehicles. From working closely with the industry, we see the importance that is placed on initial quality. Vehicle manufacturers and consumers alike are reaping the rewards of this effort."

The study finds that 86 percent of the overall improvement is due to advances in eliminating defects and malfunctions. Minimizing design problems remains a major challenge for the industry, particularly since new technology, such as navigation and entertainment devices, is becoming increasingly common in today's new vehicles.

"As consumer demand for new and more advanced wireless communication, navigation and audio technology continues to grow, manufacturers face challenges related to how well these systems are integrated into their vehicles," said Sargent. "In particular, issues with difficult-to-use audio and entertainment controls and voice command recognition failure are among the top ten problems most frequently reported by customers. Since hands-free communication for drivers will become a mandate in more and more areas throughout the United States, this will need to be an area of continued focus for automakers."

The study also reflects that new-vehicle sales patterns in 2008 have shifted away from the largest models and toward smaller models.

"This shift in sales preferences among new-vehicle buyers is in part a response to rapidly increasing fuel prices," said Sargent. "The good news for consumers in this difficult environment is that they can downsize with confidence, as there are many models with high initial quality in the smaller-vehicle segments. J.D. Power and Associates forecasts that 28 new compact-vehicle models will launch by 2010, and it will be particularly important for manufacturers to ensure high initial quality in these launches."

2008 U.S. IQS Ranking Highlights

Honda models capture three segment awards -- more than any other nameplate in the 2008 study -- for the Civic, CR-V and Fit. Garnering two segment awards each are: Chevrolet (Malibu and Silverado LD); Dodge (Dakota and Durango); Infiniti (EX-Series and M-Series); Lexus (LS and RX); and Mercedes-Benz (CLK-Class and E-Class). The Porsche 911 has the fewest quality problems in the industry, with just 67 problems per 100 vehicles. Also receiving segment awards are the Ford E-Series, Lincoln Navigator, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Pontiac Grand Prix Sedan and Toyota Sequoia.

"In past years, automakers have frequently struggled to achieve very high initial quality with new models," said Sargent. "With product launches and redesigns often being problematic for manufacturers from a quality standpoint, it is particularly impressive that the Chevrolet Malibu and Infiniti EX-Series achieve such high levels of quality that they receive awards in their launch year."

Audi posts the largest improvement in ranking, moving from 26th place in 2007 to 10th in 2008.

The 2008 U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 81,500 purchasers and lessees of new 2008 model-year cars and trucks surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 228-question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate problem determination and drive product improvement.

About J.D. Power and Associates

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The company's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP) is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2007 were US$6.8 billion. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com.

Media Relations Contacts: John Tews J.D. Power and Associates Troy, Michigan USA +1-248-312-4119 john.tews@jdpa.com Syvetril Perryman J.D. Power and Associates Westlake Village, California +1-805-418-8103 Syvetril.perryman@jdpa.com

No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the information in this release without the express prior written consent of J.D. Power and Associates. http://www.jdpower.com/corporate.

Multimedia Available: To view and download supplementary charts, photos, video, audio, text, and graphics please visit J.D. Power and Associates' Enhanced News Release at http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/jdpower/33527/

Web site: http://www.jdpower.com

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