J.D. Power and Associates have released its annual study of initial vehicle quality for new-for and redesigned-for 2011 vehicles. The study reports that while quality for 2011 model-year introductions is down, carryover models have never had higher quality levels.

In its annual 2011 U.S. Initial Quality Study, J.D. Power and Associates reported that while the initial quality of new vehicles as a whole has improved to an average of 107 problems per 100 vehicles (the lower the number the better), the quality of brand-new for 2011, or significantly updated for 2011 has dropped down. In 2010, new for, or significantly updated models reported an average of 111 problems per 100 vehicles, while this year that number has gone up by 10 percent to 122 problems per 100 vehicles. Only six redesigned models ranked in the top three in their respective segments, compared to 17 in 2010. The only all-new model to receive a segment award this year was the new 2011 Dodge Durango, while eight all-new models earned segment awards last year.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, the decline in launch quality is most obvious in two areas: engine/ transmission and in audio/entertainment/navigation systems. "With high fuel prices and more stringent government regulations," said the report, "Automakers are designing engine and transmission software to make their models as economical as possible." According to J.D. Power and Associates, this can sometimes lead to engines and transmissions "hesitating" while in full throttle conditions, which more buyers of 2011 model-year vehicles are reporting as issues.

The other issue, the quality of all-inclusive audio/entertainment/navigation systems has to do with their designs more than anything. According to J.D. Power and Associates, many new vehicle owners are reporting that the systems aren't easy to use or don't always function the way that they should. The systems are Jacks-of-all-trades, but master of none. Essentially, the systems are so complicated because they need to do many different things; it's just that they do none of those things very well.

Among the highest ranking automakers is Lexus, which lead with just 73 problems per 100 vehicles. Rounding out the top five is Honda (which improved from sixth last year,) Acura, Mercedes-Benz and tied for fifth is Porsche and Mazda (which improved from 18th last year, to fifth this year). Most improved was Land Rover which had 170 problems per 100 vehicles last year and 123 per 100 vehicles this year. Rounding out the bottom of the list was Dodge, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and Mini.

Honda was the big winner this year with seven of its cars earning segment awards, with Lexus having four vehicles winning segment awards.