4 of 5
BACKNEXT
Quality improvements
Dream: Higher quality cars can bring back buyers who've gone to Asian brands.
Reality: Regaining the trust of car buyers will be key. But it's a long-term issue.

One of the biggest challenges for Chrysler and General Motors is the long memory of car owners who've been burned by unreliable products. Add to that the poor "perceived quality" - the feel of interior materials and the sound of engines and doors - of some of their more recent models.

Despite many improvements, both automakers have continued to lag the industry leaders in both perceived quality and dependability, according to data from J.D. Power & Associates and Consumer Reports - Chrysler especially so. The Chevrolet Malibu, pictured here, has earned especially strong marks for GM.

Ford Motor Co. has learned that improving quality isn't enough. Perceptions are much harder to fix. Ford has done a remarkable job of improving the dependability of its vehicles so that today's Ford cars are just as dependable as Honda's and Toyota's, according to Consumer Reports.

But according to a recent opinion survey by the same magazine, car shoppers don't rank Ford among the top five when they think of quality. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz, which has ranked among the least-reliable brands, according to actual owner experience, ranked right behind Toyota and Honda in shoppers' perceptions of quality.

Impact: Quality improvements simply must continue. Car buyers today expect an extremely dependable product, and when they don't get it, they don't come back. Unfortunately, the return on that investment will take a long time because many American car buyers have already given up.

NEXT: Electric cars

Last updated February 17 2009: 6:58 PM ET
Find Your Next Car
More Galleries
Novelty gifts for people with money to burn For those who've got the cash, these holiday gifts can really make a statement. More
The best stocks of 2014 This year has been very solid for stocks, but these 6 were the best of the S&P 500. More
14 biggest tech fails of 2014 2014 was chock-full of big failures in technology, from security snafus to executive gaffes. Here are the top ... er ... bottom 14. More

Special Offer

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.