Dodge Tops Them All in Initial Quality: J.D. Power
Come again? Yes, that’s the finding of J.D. Power’s latest Initial Quality Study, which examines consumer complaints over the first 90 days of vehicle ownership. As you can already see, there was plenty of disruption in the 2020 study.
Tesla, darling of both the tech and green crowds, finished dead last in the study, which ranks brands and individual models by problems experienced per 100 (PP100) vehicles. That finding comes with a caveat, however.
The electric automaker wasn’t officially ranked in the study, though that didn’t stop consumers from complaining to the tune of 250 PP100 — the worst showing of any mainstream automaker, by far. The industry average for the 2020 model year was a PP100 figure of 166.
“Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required,” said Doug Betts, president of the automotive division at J.D. Power, in a statement. “However, we were able to collect a large enough sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states and, from that base, we calculated Tesla’s score.”
Second-worst in the 2020 IQS was Land Rover, at 228 PP100.
Dodge’s score was 136 (up from the No. 8 sport last year), which happens to tie with a repeat chart-topper, Kia. Chevrolet and Ram shared the runner-up spot, with an average of 141 complaints apiece. For the fourth year, Genesis topped all premium brands and placed No. 3 in the overall study.
The IQS is not a barometer of long-term reliability. Indeed, a complaint can be just that — a gripe over something that you yourself might not have an issue with. In past years, complex or wonky infotainment systems have supercharged the J.D. Power complaint department, as buyers in the 55-plus age range aren’t always on the same tech page as automakers chasing the latest gee-whiz thing to add to their cabins.
A vehicle can be just fine mechanically, only to be hamstrung by its tech. At the same time, a vehicle, while not being especially great, can cop a respectable score by offering less high-tech niceties. And sometimes a model has just been on the market long enough to work out many of the bugs — a situation that could apply to Dodge, a brand whose vehicles all seem to have originated on drawing boards in the 2000s.
It seems that Ram got things right with its new full-size and heavy duty pickups. Going from 21st place to second place in the space of a year is a hell of a jump.
The other side of the coin is brands like Ford and Toyota, which both sank for 2020. The Blue Oval brand moved from fourth place in 2019 to 14th this year, placing below the industry average. Toyota sank from 10th to 16th place, tied with Honda (which placed No. 14 last year). Seven domestic brands (the aforementioned marques, plus Cadillac, Buick, GMC, and Jeep) ranked better than average this year.
Overall brand rankings are no guarantee that a specific vehicle will shine, however. On a segment-level basis, the Chevrolet Sonic and Malibu topped the IQS for small and midsize mainstream cars, while the Kia Forte took the compact class. Ford’s perennial pony car, the Mustang, earned the fewest complaints among sporty cars.
Speaking of Ford, the Ranger topped its midsize pickup rivals, while the new-for-2020 Super Duty walked away the victor in the heavy duty segment. Toyota’s ancient Tundra generated the fewest complaints among the full-size crowd.
In the SUV segments, only one American automaker — Cadillac — received top billing. The XT4 and Escalade cleaned up in the premium compact and full-size categories. Nissan’s Murano and Armada annoyed the least number of people in the midsize and large SUV fields, while Kia took top honors in the small and upper midsize SUV segments with its Soul and Sorento. The Hyundai Tucson ranked first in the compact SUV segment.
Best minivan for initial quality? The Kia Sedona, which sees a full revamp for 2021.
You’ll notice there’s no Dodges mentioned here, though that doesn’t mean the brand didn’t come close to beating challengers. The Charger was runner-up in the large car segment, while the Durango played second fiddle in the upper midsize SUV ranking.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Genesis, Ford]
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