The initial quality of new vehicles in Malaysia has improved for a third consecutive year, according to the latest JD Power Asia Pacific 2006 Malaysia Initial Quality Study (IQS).

"While initial quality in Malaysia has improved by 33% since the study's inception in 2003, it is important to note that customer expectations are constantly rising," said JDPAP managing director Gerrit Kuyntjes.

"This poses a challenge for the industry in maintaining the rate of improvement that we've seen thus far."

Now in its fourth year, the study measures new-vehicle quality in the first two to six months of ownership.

The study eyes 135 problem symptoms in nine categories. Overall performance is summarized as problems per 100 (PP100) vehicle score, with alower score reflecting better quality performance.

At the industry level, fewer problems were recorded in six problem categories compared to 2005: ride/handling/braking; features/controls; transmission; vehicle interior; HVAC and vehicle exterior.

The study found excessive fuel consumption emerges within top 10 most frequently reported problems by new vehicle owners.

"The increased price of fuel has heightened the sensitivities of customers in Malaysia who expect better fuel economy from their new vehicle," said Kuyntjes. "This is particularly of note because more customers are citing 'good fuel efficiency' as the most important reason to purchase a particular vehicle."

Perodua performed particularly well in the compact car segment, with the Kelisa ranking highest with a score of 136 PP100, and the Myvi following with a score of 179 PP100. Debuting in the study, the Proton Savvy ranked third with +8 PP100 behind the Myvi and +6 PP100 behind the segment average (181 PP100).

For a third consecutive year, the Toyota Vios led the entry midsize car segment with a score of 90 PP100 this year. The Honda City (138 PP100) and Proton Wira (185 PP100) followed in the segment rankings.

The Honda Civic (115 PP100) ranked highest in the midsize car segment, followed by the Nissan Sentra (121 PP100) and Toyota Corolla Altis (133 PP100). The current Honda Civic was recently redesigned, and is now the eighth generation model.

The Inokom Matrix (107 PP100) moved from second position in 2005 to first in the MPV/van segment. Two Toyota models followed behind, the Innova and Avanza at 136 PP100 and 153 PP100, respectively. Naza's Ria and Citra models rounded out the segment ranking.

The study also found that owners who indicated they "definitely would" recommend their vehicle model or brand experienced considerably fewer problems with their vehicle's quality when compared with owners who "definitely would not." On average, owners who would definitely recommend their vehicle model experiencef only 96 PP100, while owners who definitely wouldn't do the same experienced an average of 583 PP100.

"Friends or relatives are still the most frequently used sources of information when shopping for a new vehicle in the Malaysia market," said Kuyntjes. "Producing high-quality vehicles is influential in generating positive word of mouth for a brand and model."

The 2006 Malaysia Initial Quality Study was based on responses from more than 2,500 new-vehicle owners who purchased their new vehicle between December 2005 and June 2006. Vehicles evaluated included 43 passenger car, pickup and utility vehicle models covering 13 different brands.