Trim Masters ranks highest in overall automotive seat quality, according to the latest JD Power and Associates 2003 Seat Quality Report. Trim Masters is a joint venture between Araco Corporation and Johnson Controls.

Trim Masters provides seats for the Toyota Avalon and Camry sedan built at the Georgetown, Kentucky plant. Trim Masters experiences a 45% decrease in reported problems in 2003, improving its quality score from 6.4 problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles to 3.5 PP100.

"Trim Masters has consistently produced high quality seating systems, ranking second in seat quality in both the 2001 and 2002 reports," said JD Power research manager Allison LaDuc. "Their quality performance can be attributed in part to large problem reductions in the areas of seat squeaks or rattles and lumbar support."

Following Trim Masters in the ranking is Araco, with a seat quality score of 6.0 PP100. Other suppliers performing above the industry average of 7.5 PP100 are Automotive Technology Systems (ATS) at 6.6 PP100; Lear Corporation at 7.0 PP100; and Johnson Controls at 7.2 PP100. ATS is a joint venture between Trim Masters and Ernie Green Industries.

Consistent with the past three years, the fewest number of seat problems occur in the luxury car segment, with an average of 5.9 PP100. The van segment receives the most reported seat problems for the second consecutive year, with 10.2 PP100.

Seven percent of owners surveyed report problems with their vehicle seats in the first three months of ownership. Among those reporting a seat problem, 88% report only one problem, while 2% report three or more seat problems.

The "poor or uncomfortable lumbar support" problem area accounts for 36% of all seat problems. This has been the most frequently reported seat problem for the past six years and ranks within the top 10 most problematic areas from a total vehicle perspective. Following lumbar support in frequency are "forward and backward adjustment" and "seat squeaks or rattles" problems.

"Lumbar remains a high problem area and has a significant impact on overall seat satisfaction; therefore this should be an area of focus for seat manufacturers," LaDuc said. "Reducing problems in this area, while maintaining the current levels of seat quality, will open the door for significant improvements in overall seat quality and satisfaction."

The study was based on 102,975 responses from owners of new 2003 and early-release 2004 model-year cars and light trucks sold in the United States.