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J.D. Power seats Trim Masters at top of ranking

Monday, July 21, 2008 - 00:00
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Trim Masters Inc., a joint venture between Johnson Controls Inc. and Toyota Boshoku Corp., ranks highest in overall automotive seat quality for a sixth consecutive year, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study(SM).

The study provides automotive manufacturers and suppliers with quality and satisfaction information related to automotive seating systems. New-vehicle owners are asked to rate the quality of their vehicle seats and seat belts based on whether or not they experienced defects/malfunctions or design problems during the first 90 days of ownership. Overall scores are measured as problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles, with lower scores reflecting higher quality, according to J.D. Power.

Trim Masters Inc. ranks highest among seat suppliers included in the study with a seat quality score of 3.8 PP100. Trim Masters supplies seats for the Toyota Avalon, Toyota Camry built at the Georgetown, Ky., plant (assembly line one) and the Lexus RX 350 built at the Cambridge, Ontario, plant. The Toyota Camry accounts for more than 50 percent of the supplier's model mix and has the fewest reported seat quality problems (3.4 PP100) among models supplied by Trim Masters.

NHK Spring Co. Ltd. follows Trim Masters in the rankings with a score of 4.6 PP100, improving by 1.1 PP100 from the 2007 study. TS Tech Co. Ltd. ranks third with a score of 5.4 PP100.

The study finds that the average number of reported problems improves to 6.2 PP100 in 2008 from 6.5 PP100 in 2007. In particular, problem counts increased slightly for forward/backward seat adjustment controls and headrest adjustment controls, while slight improvements overall were shown in seat squeaks/rattles/abnormal noises and folding seat problems.

"This progress is the result of several suppliers making strides in improving seat quality within the past year," says Allison LaDuc, senior research manager of automotive product quality at J.D. Power and Associates. "In particular, the two largest seat suppliers, Lear and Johnson Controls, improve their quality scores by 1.4 and 0.5 PP100, respectively. Tachi-S Co. Ltd. achieves particularly notable improvement of 4.3 PP100 by reducing problems in carryover models and adding two models to their portfolio."

The study also finds that design-related issues account for nearly 70 percent of seat problems. The six seat problems most frequently reported all pertain to design, rather than defects or malfunctions. These include difficulty in understanding and using controls for specific seat elements: forward/backward adjustment; lumbar support adjustment; headrest adjustment; folding seats; memory seats; and recliner adjustment.

"Seat problems related to difficulties with understanding and using controls occur frequently, and have a noticeable impact on overall seat satisfaction," says LaDuc. "Suppliers and manufacturers can benefit greatly by designing seat controls that are easy and intuitive to understand and use, as owners who experience problems with these functions provide overall seat satisfaction scores that are considerably lower -- by 0.92 points on a 10-point scale -- than those customers who have not experienced these problems."

The 2008 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 81,530 new-vehicle owners who purchased a 2008 model-year vehicle. The survey was fielded between February and April 2008.

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