By on June 25, 2020

2019 Dodge Challenger T/A 392

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.

Image: Genesis Motors

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.

2019 Ram 2500 Tradesman — regular cab

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.

Image: Ford

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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51 Comments on “Dodge Tops Them All in Initial Quality: J.D. Power...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Meh, these studies don’t really tell us that much aside from whether owners are happy with the electronic gizmos in their cars, and Dodges don’t have much of that going on.

    Far as Tesla’s concerned…setting the long term reliability questions aside, their electronic controls are a royal pain in the a** to deal with (I’ve said many times the only reason I wouldn’t buy a Model 3 is that stupid touchscreen), which probably explains a lot. Same goes for Range Rover – their electronics are also wonky.

    Whether this means these cars are *unreliable* is another story that this survey doesn’t delve into, which is why I take it with a grain of salt.

    But in any case, kudos to Dodge.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      It is my understanding that ease of use with respect to infotainment weighs heavy in these initial quality surveys and frankly this is something Dodge nails. U-Connect is simply the best of the bunch by a large margin, though I have yet to use Fords Sync Iv system (not sure it is out yet)

      There really isn’t much else to these initial quality deals as most people don’t have to take new cars to the shop.

      No surprise on Tesla given the crazy stories of dirty cars being delivered with a “take it or leave it” attitude and bad paint. That stuff adds up.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        As the owner of a 2018 Dodge Challenger GT awd the U-Connect is very user friendly. This comes from someone who is a late adopter to some of this auto technology. Since my car is in the body shop being repaired after being hit a couple of weeks ago I’ve been using a rental Nissan Maxima. The infotainment system in it is subpar compared to the U-Connect.
        BTW the latest Consumers Reports recommends the Chrysler 300 over the Lexus LS, a vehicle that used to be their top pick for 30 years. The latest version to them is a let down.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      It is an achievement for Dodge and I hate to throw any shade on it, but I suspect if you threw in any analysis of the age across all models for each brand, you would find that Dodge as a whole is by far the oldest. Certainly having a decade to iron out the bugs and production glitches doesn’t hurt in this particular exercise.

      As for Tesla, I would love to own a Model 3. Not saying that this is the only thing keeping me away, but getting me there every time I need to hit the road is really the first and by far the most important attribute of transportation in my circumstances. If I had a spare car, if I were retired. If I had access to better public transportation perhaps that would be a different calculation. As it stands, I still see owning a Tesla as somewhat of a dice roll in terms of what I consider to be reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Certainly having a decade to iron out the bugs and production glitches doesn’t hurt in this particular exercise.”

        Likely true but there’s really nothing wrong with Dodge’s “old” offerings either.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Tesla should be good on reliability for a 3 or Y. I kind of look at them as an “Ikea” car. Some assembly required. In other words, if and when I get one, it’ll be the first car I send off for an inspection to my local Tesla independent. I may have the car repainted anyway to get the color I want. Even after getting the car re-worked, it would still be better than the $15k ADM ford dealers are rumored to be tacking onto the Mach E or the issues with the other cars in that segment.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Tesla’s fit and finish is a joke and fit and finish maters to me at the price they’re asking.

          It is mildly funny to watch video reviews of Teslas that point out fit and finish issues and do all sorts of verbal back-flips to try to excuse it.

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            With X-car body/interior quality and Vega-style corrosion, there are gonna be some sad looking robotaxis a few years down the road.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Dan:

            I haven’t encountered any Teslas with “joke” fit and finish. The ones I’ve seen all seem to be pretty tight ships…not “Benz S-class” tight, mind you, but a long way from bad.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            “fit and finish maters to me at the price they’re asking.”

            When you factor in the performance, it’s worth dealing with fit and finish issues. The paint can be fixed and the fit (if you care) can be fixed too. BMWs ugly grill can’t be as easily fixed. Lexus’ predator face can’t be as easily fixed. I could get a Taycan, but the 3 is about $60k to $100k cheaper. So, you price in any fixes the car might need. I would even send my BMWs to a tuner to have changes.

            Maybe because I grew up around Italian exotics. You’d have plenty of fit and finish issues. Corvettes used to have crappy orange-peel paint. I remember Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn repainting some of them before they even put them on the lot.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            An OEM quality paint job can be a 5 figure proposition. No, one should not expect to have to paint a new car.

            Styling issues you point out are subjective. If GM or Ford were turning out cars that needed repainted you people would be wailing. Post something about Ford Explorers and misaligned trim and you’ll have 300 commenters talking about what crap they are.

            And that is fair. When they do boneheaded stuff, they should get called on it. It is only Tesla where anyone would say “you can just repaint it” and have an army of keyboard warriors bash you if you have the gall to suggest that maybe they should just paint the car right the first time.

            These are not mistakes that serious carmakers get away with. You mention Italian Exotics. Cool. I would counter with asking if Tesla is a real, mainline automakers for the masses or a builder of toys for the rich that remember fondly the flaws their exotics haven’t had for the past 30 years.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “When you factor in the performance”

            It just depends what someone’s “performance vs F&F” lines look like. There’s people that would be fine with a 7.5 0-60 time if it meant they got exceptional build quality to go along with it.

            And although I don’t find many modern cars especially attractive, the amphibious looking 3 and Y aren’t beauty contest winners either IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          “Some assembly required.”

          I’m sorry @MCS, but this is not how most people look at buying a new car. I would wager that nobody has found that sort of thing acceptable since the days of the Vega, and probably not even then.

          plenty of dealers not marking up the Mach-E. If you pay that ADM, you are a fool much in the same manner that if you buy a new car that requires you to promptly take it to a mechanic to finish the assembly up to and including a paint job, you are a fool.

          OEM Quality paint job including a color change? Yeah you wish you could get out for 15k. Or did you plan to have your trunk and engine bay on your new car be a different color? though aparently one could have Maaco paint one and it would still be an improvement.

  • avatar
    ajla

    My 2014 Dodge had both low initial quality and low longer term quality (FWIW the Kia has been better here). Not sure if I got a “bad luck” car or what but good on FCA for getting a top score 6 years later.

  • avatar
    gtem

    My how things, and people, change. I just test drove a new body style Ram 1500 Tradesman crew cab yesterday and walked away VERY impressed. We’ve got a 2016 Town&Country in the garage. It’s got a few rattles related to the stow and go seats from what I can tell, but we’ve been very happy with it so far. I went from Toyota stalwart to now packing my fleet with FCA products, go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      So does that mean you bought the Ram, or are tracking down the right one at the right price?

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Haven’t bought yet, just went in to test drive but the one I looked at just so happened to be configured exactly how I’d want one: Full crew cab Tradesman with the non-Etorque Hemi, 4wd, Offroad-Group (a real e-locker finally, STEEL skid plates, 1 inch lift with heavy duty shocks, all terrain tires, front tow hooks), Tow package, 3.92 gears, rear window slider and a basic “convenience” package. Listed at 38k, looking around I found a similarly configured truck 3 hours away listed for $34k. My 4Runner sells tomorrow (for a very nice price, it appreciated over the last 7 years and 50k miles), Camry’s on the chopping block.

        I still need to test drive a F150 SuperCrew with the 2.7, dealer down the road has several but when I stopped by there I was sitting for almost 20 minutes waiting for them to pull a truck up, I simply got up and left.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Anyone that remotely knows about cars, ignores these silly surveys. What, isn’t Porsche on the top of list this time?

  • avatar
    brn

    I also put very little faith in any of these surveys. However, as hard as it is for people to believe, Dodge has come a long way in the last few years.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    There’s no such thing as “initial quality”.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Maybe today it’s more of a reflection of the usability of the infotainment systems, etc. But that was not always the case. I recall when my Dad bought a new 1966 Chevrolet, the rear main oil seal apparently had been omitted, and there were various other nuts and bolts in the body or frame that had not been sufficiently tightened. Perhaps the JD Power IQS dates from that era. What was annoying is that, in those days “dealer prep” was always a charge added to the price of the car. I guess the dealer washed the exterior and called it a day. Noticing the oil spot underneath where the car was parked was not on the menu.

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        I recall Consumer Reports reviews that started something like “the XXXXX started and ran well” as if this was a thing that was not guaranteed. The only car review I’ve read in the last 20-25 years in which I can remember that basic function not being the case was the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Another handful that went into some sort of electronic “limp home” mode during the test, but that’s it.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Agree with the consensus of many above that these surveys are fairly useless. Anyone who buys a car based on what J.D. Power says is as misguided as those who think the car magazine’s “Car of the Year” award says anything about vehicle quality. So many horrible machines on both lists over the years. I wish some organization would do true quality analysis in terms of reliability of carried over technology. Consumer reports tries to do long-term assessments, but they always fall short and are always woefully behind (try and buy the washing machine or appliance they recommend – you’ll find out it’s already discontinued). If a non-wear-item part is always in stock at the auto parts, that likely isn’t a good thing. I have walked in and bought a Chrysler throttle body, Mini electronic thermostat, and Volkswagen ignition coils right off the shelf because they sell so many of them. Never had to wait for any of the half dozen rear calipers I have replaced on the fleet of four Dodge Caravans at work. Not sure how they accumulate data on what to stock nationwide at a corporate level, but I think it would be an interesting read.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      You know, that’s not a bad indicator as to whether a manufacturer has long term reliability as a goal. I’d thought about it before and promptly forgotten it.

      Kia for example. Here No 1 on IQS. What a joke indicator of anything useful.

      My niece had the driver’s side remote door lock actuator go out on her Soul after working, quitting then working intermittently until one day she gets locked out in the rain. Called up the dealer, and they had a “flat rate” for front door actuator, $1100 taxes in. In stock, when do you want the appointment? Freaked her out on the pricing, so she called me. Well, looking on the web I see thousands have had the same problem on all Kia models since at least 2005. IQS worth bugger all to anybody except execs who scan and then chuck the printout in the bin. Kia obviously don’t give a damn, and the dealer has, as Arthur Daley would say, “a nice little earner, Terry”.

      Mazda was second last year in C/D long term reliability, here mid pack. I know three other people with up to six year old ones – no probs. My 2019 turbo 6 car as delivered was flawless, best in my 50 years of buying new. Still flawless, the dealer not so much on service appointments for changing tires and installing the remote starter, and 4 hours late on delivery time promise while I cooled my heels miles from home. I give Mazda 100%, the dealer 50.

      My local independent workshop known as best around, run off his feet, old and a complete internet noob, didn’t even know his Google rating was 4.8 and asked me, well what does that mean? Irrelevant to him. RAM truck and flawless ’77 Trans Am for him, Mazda for the wife.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    So the most complex cars have the most problems with things like complex infotainment systems. That’s not a shock to me but it never ceases to amaze me how many people still think that surveys like this prove a Range Rover is more likely to break down than a Ford. Not many cars leave you stranded these days. Tesla owners know this that’s why they still buy Tesla’s!

  • avatar
    Tstag

    So this is interesting according to the survey:

    – Jaguar 190
    – Mercedes 202
    – Volvo 210
    – Audi 225
    – Land Rover 228
    – Tesla 250

    So everyone panic. Stop buying those unreliable Mercedes, Volvo’’s ,Audi’s and start buying them there Jaguars!

    Can we now change the record that Land Rovers breakdown all the time. They don’t it’s just they are probably more complicated than Mercedes cars and are so marginally more prone to issues.

    TTAC should put a link to this survey on every article mentioning The supposed unreliability of JLR products because frankly this just shows it’s fake news

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Do you work for Land Rover or something?
      I don’t see how next to last and well below average in the survey makes something “fake news”.
      If the only reliability or quality metric that matters to you is “it won’t strand me on the side of the road in the first 36 months” then by all means go buy a Velar and enjoy.

      • 0 avatar
        Tstag

        I’m not saying that the results are rigged all I’m saying is there is a very weak argument for buying and Audi over a Land Rover when you consider Audi are only 3 points better than an infinetly more complicated Range Rover, which can also go off-road.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          There are always some brand mega-fans out there but I would be surprised if many people (in the US anyway) choose an Audi over a Land Rover because of anticipated reliability. I would consider both on the lower end of that scale.

          Everyone has their personal “reliability” level that they are willing to live with. For some people that means they need to own a Corolla LE, for some people that means they will be fine owning a Velar or a Stelvio or a CT5.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        I was gonna say something similar. What all these vehicles have in common is that they are “purchased” on 36-month lease deals, which happens to coincide with the bumper-to-bumper warranty. Then, they become someone else’s problem.

        • 0 avatar
          Tstag

          It’s funny in my experience 18 months is the time it takes to break free of all issues on a car, particularly a high end one.

          My point on Audi and Volvo is that I rarely see any one criticise these brands for reliability and yet they are now shown to be less reliable than Jaguar and only a bit better than Land Rover. Also why does Lexus do so well? It does well because its a reheated Toyota using reheated lowend tech… no one is critiquing this stuff not even TTAC

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “My point on Audi and Volvo is that I rarely see any one criticise these brands for reliability”

            Really? I see Audi and Volvo getting ripped on for reliability all the time.

            Here’s two infamous times that TTAC made entire articles about Audi screwing people over:

            thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/10/piston-slap-escaping-four-rings-hell/

            thetruthaboutcars.com/2019/09/piston-slap-the-unfortunate-teachable-moment/

            I’m sure one of the Volvo fanboys can chime in about how “unfair” we are to them.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I agree with Tstag…look at what these numbers mean.

      Dodge’s winning score was 136 problems per 100 cars. That means each car had 1.36 problems. The loser was Tesla, with 250 problems per 100 cars. That means each car had 2.5 problems. And worth noting: J.D. Power doesn’t break out what the “problems” were – was it something that broke, or something that just annoyed the owner? Unknown.

      The lowest scores don’t indicate Yugo-level garbage quality to me – just a car that’s probably a bit fussier.

  • avatar
    deanst

    The only thing this tells me is that Dodge spent some money on JD Power “consultants” and learned how to improve their score.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I do not consider such ratings reliable.

    Here’s why: Results vary widely for Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep products. In some cases, such as with Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, both products share nearly all engineering and the same assempbly line, yet each earns vastly different ratings. Same with Charger and 300–mechanically identical vehicles, from the same assembly plant, with vastly differernt ratings. This indicates the methodology used in these studies is hopelessly flawed.

    JD Power serves as a marekting tool for the manufacturers, not as a reliable source of consumer advice.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I don’t consider Consumer Report reliable. The first time I read them was in the early-mid 80’s. The Mazda pickup and the Ford Ranger were identical vehicles (true badge engineering). The Mazda received substantially higher ratings. Their system is flawed. Is JD Power flawed too? Probably.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Even if we assume these figures are correct:

    1. YMMV – we all have anecdotes about the crappy (your brand here) that we bought one time. For me, it was Honda and VW.

    2. People don’t seems to pay much attention to them, and keep buying whatever they want.

    But these ratings can’t always be correct. A 19-place jump for RAM should be accompanied by an announcement by RAM that they’ve implemented some amazing new quality practices into their design and mfg. However, it’s probably just the same as before, but somehow statistically skewed in this new report.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “A 19-place jump for RAM should be accompanied by an announcement by RAM that they’ve implemented some amazing new quality practices into their design and mfg.”

      Maybe, but that also requires an implied admission that they were “bad” in the short-term past and not many manufacturers like doing such things. Overall, I would not be surprised that they’ve implemented quality improvements on new style Ram.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        The ’19 I poked around in looked/felt very well screwed together. Left a very positive impression in general, as have all newer (’15ish+) Chrysler/Dodge interiors. Sergio’s legacy, the man did them right.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          What broke the camel’s back for me was when my door panels started warping.

          Really the entire interior was warping, melting or coming unglued. I had 30 year old GM products that were wearing better. Add in all the electrical issues I had in the first two years and I was ready to move on.

  • avatar
    Greg Hamilton

    Scotty Kilmer’s head just exploded!

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Initial quality test – something JD Powah invented to sell surveys to dumbass carmakers to get their name on a list.

    BTW, any complaint a customer makes in the first 3 months of ownership counts as a ding. For example, water spots on a window count as a ding, as does not knowing how to adjust the seat. I guess Dodge knows how to wash cars well.

    This is a horsesh** award. It always has been.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Everyone complains about these award results (based on data) when they don’t match their preconceived ideas (anecdotes). There also seems to be a lot of confusion about what the Initial Quality measurements are all about. It doesn’t necessarily measure reliability, that’s what the Dependability study is all about. What Initial Quality is about is things like fit and finish, assembly issues, initial user experience.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Awards are only valid when they reinforce my purchasing choices. Otherwise they are BS

    -The Best and Brightest Y’all

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    There is also a component of ‘buyer behavior’ inherent in the JD Power Initial Quality Study. (Because I am not *comparing* vehicles, just rating the one I took delivery on.)

    Extreme example: If you go back a decade or more, Buick used to rate very highly on this survey. At the time, Buick had relatively low conquest (high loyalty, lots of repeat buyers). [And they were actively working to reduce ‘things gone wrong’ on relatively ‘proven’ models.] If I were a lifetime Buick buyer, the Buick I bought at the time was nicer than the last one I had (and I didn’t cross-shop the competition). So yes I reported very few problems at delivery.

    But this *doesn’t* mean that a Lexus buyer sitting in the same Buick at the same point in time would have made the same observation.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    My ’18 Challenger has been, with the exception of some odd USB stick stereo glitches, flawless for the nearly two years I’ve had it.A couple of times a year, the stereo refuses to recognize there is a USB stick plugged in, or it can’t read all of it. The stereo weirdness is resolved by just shutting the system down and turning it back on. It also has a weird thing it does when it’s time to adjust for daylight savings time beginning or ending. It goes the wrong way, 2 hours, so in the Spring, instead of jumping ahead one hour, it went back 2 hours. It’s kind of funny actually.

    No rattles, the paint is good, the seams are OK, not great, but OK, the thing runs great and the 8 speed automatic is pretty much perfection. Somehow, my car has made it through two winters in Toledo without hurting any suspension components. My older Challenger that went through 8 winters had to be fixed 7 times due to pothole damage. That’s not the car’s fault, it’s just the awful Toledo streets, and living on one of the worst. It’s finally been repaved and hopefully, a couple of years goes by before it goes to shit again.

    I have been in a lot of new FCA vehicles over the last 3 years and the problems have been very few and most all of the ones that weren’t apparent before delivery have been confined to the digital dash, the uConnect, or stereo itself. Drivetrain issues? Well, none I can remember.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Some of the Hemis were supposedly munching their camshafts for a while due to bad lifters. Looks like it was a marginal design that just wasn’t tolerant to lack of maintenance. Supposedly they improved the design but I maintain mine so I don’t really sweat it and if it did eat it I’d just take that as a message from God that I am supposed to get a giant cam for it. I leased too though so YMMV.

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