Ram, Dodge and Lexus are the top three highest-ranked brands in the new J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS). The survey involves getting feedback from new vehicle owners in the first 90 days of ownership. Overall, the J.D. Power study found that new-vehicle quality improved 2% from 2020, which is slightly lower than the average rate of improvement (3%) seen during the past decade.
Researchers say reported problems with infotainment systems are primarily to blame for preventing faster improvement, and that they remain the most problematic area for new-vehicle owners. Specifically, smartphone connectivity issues are now the most commonly cited problem reported by new vehicle owners. This year, problems with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity replaced voice recognition issues for the first time since 2011.
“Owners are caught in the middle when vehicle and phone technologies don’t properly connect,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “This year there are many examples of smartphone technology not working as intended in new vehicles. With more vehicles being fitted with the wireless technology owners want, the study reveals an increase in connectivity problems between smartphones and vehicles, leaving many owners unhappy.”
J.D. Power measures initial quality by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. The industry average of 162 PP100 is 4 PP100 better than in 2020, with 20 of 32 brands improving their quality from 2020.
Ram Is Highest-Ranked Overall Brand
Notably, Ram is the highest-ranking brand among all brands in overall initial quality for the first time ever. Ram attributes the brand’s first-place finish to positive feedback from owners of new 2500/3500 trucks – which were named top large heavy-duty pickup in this year’s IQS. Dodge came in second, while Jeep had its best-ever eighth place finish.
“This is not a data point; this is a trend,” said Mark Champine, Head of North America Customer Experience at Stellantis. “Anyone who knows the robustness of our product-improvement processes, as well as the engagement level of our workforce, is not surprised by these latest results.”
2021 Ram Power Wagon Crew Cab. Credit: Stellantis.
“We have seen the hard work put in by the Stellantis team up close,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “These latest results are testament to the efforts put in across the organization. To have the top two brands in the study is a very impressive achievement. Congratulations to the entire team.”
Chrysler, Audi and Volkswagen are at the bottom of the list. You can check out the full ranking brand list provided by J.D. Power who published the study, below.
Here are some the key findings as outlined in the J.D. Power press release.
- Infotainment remains most problematic category: One in four (25%) of all problems cited by new-vehicle owners are in the infotainment category, and six of the top 10 problems across the industry are infotainment-related.
- Smartphone connection is top problem: For the first time since 2011, voice recognition is not the top problem cited by new-vehicle owners. The top complaint this year is Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity, which worsens significantly. This is a particular problem when these systems are operated wirelessly, which is increasingly common. “Owners want wireless connectivity, and the industry has responded,” Sargent said. “However, this has created a bigger technical challenge for both automakers and tech companies. Automakers generally are the ones facing the wrath of owners, but this is definitely a shared problem. Owners don’t care who’s at fault—they just want their phone and their vehicle to talk to each other.”
- Mass market brands continue to outperform premium brands: For the past six years, owners of mass market vehicles have cited fewer problems, on average, than owners of premium vehicles. Premium brands generally equip their vehicles with more and more complex technology, which can cause problems for some owners. Lexus (144 PP100) and Genesis (148 PP100) are the only premium brands that perform better than the industry average.
- Nissan Maxima achieves highest score of any model: The Nissan Maxima, with just 85 PP100, has the best score of any model in this year’s study.
- Tesla’s unofficial score improves from 2020: Tesla receives an initial quality score of 231 PP100, an improvement of 19 PP100 from 2020. The automaker is not officially ranked among other brands in the study as it doesn’t meet ranking criteria. Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant J.D. Power permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required. However, Tesla’s score was calculated based on a sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states.
Highest-Ranking Brands and Models
If we break it down by corporation, Hyundai Motor Group receives the most model-level awards (seven), followed byToyota Motor Corporation (five); BMW AG (four); Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (three); and General Motors Company and Stellantis NV (with two each). Kia and BMW are the brands with the most segment awards. Kia with five, and BMW with four.
Hyundai Motor Group models that rank highest in their respective segments are Genesis G80; Hyundai Accent; Kia Forte; Kia Sedona; Kia Soul; Kia Sportage; and Kia Telluride.
- Toyota Motor Corp. models that rank highest in their segments are Lexus RC; Lexus RX; Lexus UX; Toyota Sequoia; and Toyota Tundra.
- BMW AG models that rank highest in their segments are BMW 2 Series; BMW X4; BMW X6; and BMW X7.
- Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. models that rank highest in their segments are Nissan Altima; Nissan Maxima; and Nissan Murano.
- General Motors Company models that rank highest in their segments are Cadillac CT5 and Chevrolet Corvette.
- Stellantis NV models that rank highest in their segments are Jeep Gladiatorand Ram 2500/3500.
Plant Quality Awards
J.D. Power also hands out awards to automotive plants that produce the fewest defects or malfunctions (they exclude design-related problems.) This year the Platinum Plant Quality Award award goes to Toyota Motor Corporation’s Motomachi 2 plant in Japan which produces the Lexus LC.
Two other plants receive Gold Plant Quality Awards. The Americas winner is Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s Smyrna 1 plant in Tennessee, which produces the Nissan Murano. The Europe/Africas regions winner is BMW AG’s Dingolfing 2 plant in Germany, home to the BMW 7 Series and BMW 8 Series.
About the Study
The 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study is now in its 35th year. Researcher studies responses from 110,827 purchasers and lessees of new 2021 model-year vehicles who were surveyed early in the ownership period. The study is based on a 223-question battery organized into nine vehicle categories (infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance; interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate) designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and drive product improvement. This year's study was fielded from February through July 2021.
For more study information click here.
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