By on December 22, 2021

Dodge/Stellantis

It’s been a few months now, so I’ve had plenty of time to get used to it — and yet, it still seems wrong. It feels factually wrong, emotionally wrong, and just wrong wrong. What is “it”, you ask? It’s this: Ram and Dodge topped the 2021 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, ahead of Lexus, Mitsubishi, and Nissan.

If someone told me, “The most reliable new cars you can buy are Rams, Dodges, Lexuses (Lexii?), Mitsubishis, and Nissans …” well, I’m not sure how you’d respond, but I would assume they sold Rams, Dodges, Mitsubishis, and Nissans, and just threw Lexus in there to give the list some credibility.

I won’t go as far as Brightwork Research in calling J.D. Power “a fake entity”, but my gut tells me that there has to be more to JDP’s Initial Quality Study than — well, initial quality — that’s pushing weird brands up in the ranking, and I’ve decided to do a little more research to find out what. If you’re as curious as I am, keep reading.

I LOVE DODGE

Before we get much further and I get accused of some $TSLA-fueled, anti-Mopar agenda, I want to set the record straight: I love Dodge.

My first dealership job was at a Dodge store in the ‘90s. I’ve owned — and raced — a couple of first-get Neon ACRs, a Dakota, a Ram 1500 (all manuals); I’m a proud member of an FWD Mopar group on Facebook; and I own more than one book chronicling the 1997 North American Touring Car Championship (NATCC), which was won by the best-looking Dodge Stratus ever built. I’ve also spent the last few decades championing the cause of the 2.2-liter, Mopar-engined Mosler Consulier GTP to anyone who would listen. I am, as the kids say, “into this”, so when I tell you that there is absolutely no freakin’ way that Dodge is the best-built car you can buy, I tell you that from a place of love and truth.

The good people at J.D. Power, one assumes, do not suffer from whatever mental health issue(s) that drives me to cruise the classifieds for a cheap Chrysler TC by Maserati or Plymouth Sundance Duster 3.0 every other payday. Something else is at play here, then, and it’s that “something else” that I seek to uncover.

All caught up? Great!

THE PROBLEM WITH J.D. POWER AWARDS

For those of you unfamiliar with how J.D. Power works, the basic idea is that they’re a survey and market research company. That means they’ll survey people who bought your product, then share the results of that survey with you. For money. Oh! — and, if you want to talk about those results, you have to pay them even more money.

How much money? Lots.

“(J.D. Power) reportedly charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to carmakers just for access to their survey results and then charge another big-time fee for the right to mention their awards in ads,” reports Consumer Reports (ha!). “Additionally, they provide a separate, equally pricey service where they help car companies make improvements that should result in higher ratings.”

Did you catch that last part? If you’re a car company — say, “TTAC Motors” — you could hire J.D. Power to send a survey to people who bought your cars. They’ll tell you how your car did on their survey, then — for a price — tell you how you can get a higher rating.

The only exception to this “you pay J.D. Power to survey people” rule seems to be Tesla. “(Tesla) is not officially ranked among other brands in the study as it doesn’t meet ranking criteria,” according to the J.D. Power website. “Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant J.D. Power permission to survey its owners.” The result of this, the one and only “pro-bono” JDP survey? Tesla ranked dead last in the 2020 Initial Quality Study.

Seems pretty legit, right?

Oh, no — wait. That doesn’t seem legit at all!

Heck, even the typically milquetoast writers at Consumer Reports are willing to get a little feisty about J.D. Power. CR’s Chris Moran quotes an unnamed JDP exec saying, “Core to our success is that our clients believe that the research is entirely independent. If they felt that you could buy a better score, then the score would become worthless.” (Emphasis mine)

So, J.D. Power seems to have a financial interest in giving reliability awards to unreliable brands, since those brands are probably more likely than brands with strong anecdotal evidence of reliability to be willing to pay big money to cite J.D. Power’s ads in their commercials. This seems like it would be doubly true of brands who performed poorly in previous JDP surveys, then hired JDP’s consultants to help them do better in future JDP surveys, you know?

You know — and that’s just problem 1.

Problem 2 is the way J.D. Power ranks the cars surveyed. In 2011*, Raffi Festekjian, the company’s director of automotive product research, explained to Car and Driver that, “the Initial Quality Study was designed to capture ‘things gone wrong’ with a vehicle. Each of those things is labeled ‘a problem,’ and it can be ‘either a fault in the assembly of the vehicle or a design issue.’ A fault might be a poorly assembled door panel or a loose electrical connection, while a design issue is something that a customer doesn’t like — a multifunction cruise-control stalk, for example — even though the item is performing exactly as intended.” (Again, emphasis mine)

That sounds fine, on the surface, but even a tiny bit of digging muddies the waters again.

“We make no judgments about these answers,” says Festekjian. “We simply report the voice of  the customer.”

That means JDP could, conceivably, get back a survey that says, “voice recognition not working,” and ding the carmaker with “a problem”, where “the problem” may not be with the car (Siri/Alexa is acting up), or may not be a problem at all (user error/stupidity).

HOW DID DODGE AND RAM GET TO THE TOP

At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that J.D. Power would lie about the results of their surveys. What seems more likely is that they don’t survey buyers of every model, and it’s mathematically easier for a carmaker to game the system and generate positive responses by focusing JDP’s surveys on low-volume models that have an enthusiastic following, offer older (read: More familiar) infotainment and technology suites, and by training dealers to specifically target certain, known JDP survey questions. The fact that said carmaker may have done poorly in past studies and/or paid a ton of money to rank higher may or may not have something to do with it, too.

The LX platform Dodge builds the Charger on has roots in the 1990s Mercedes-Benz E-Class, last time I checked. Similarly, the UConnect system in that car looks pretty similar to the infotainment system in the last Dodge Dart I drove back in 2015, so it’s probably pretty familiar to repeat Dodge customers (Ed. note – Stellantis is slowly unveiling a new Uconnect across brands but it’s likely too early to have an impact on J.D. Power results). And, like, you know who really, really loves to talk about how awesome the Dodge Charger is? Dodge Charger owners. A quick Google search of Ram interiors reveals a similar visual familiarity (to my eyes, anyway). With all those things considered, it would be weirder if Dodge didn’t rank highly in the IQS … it’s just too bad that those things don’t have much to do with actual quality.

That’s just my take, though. You’re the Best and Brightest, so if there’s a flaw in my thinking, I’m sure you guys will point it out. Let’s see it!

  • Hilariously, Dodge was dead last in the JDP Initial Quality Study that year, just behind Mitsubishi.

[Image: Dodge/Stellantis]

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60 Comments on “Analysis: Ram and Dodge and the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “so if there’s a flaw in my thinking, I’m sure you guys will point it out”

    Yeah right. You think a hick like me is going to try to find fault with a California resident? (Not falling into THAT trap today.)

  • avatar
    jmo

    The car business is ever evolving. Some hotshot executive at Honda says they can mint money (and all get their bonuses) by lowering quality standards. And for a while they do. Then the chickens come home to roost and that executive is fired. The new guy comes in promising to go back to the old ways. In the mean time 10s of thousands are left with lemon Hondas.

    At another company a hotshot new executive says, “I’m not going to sign off on our new infotainment system until you can grab 100 people off the street and ask them to pair their phones and it works ever time.” And as a result their score sores.

    The B&B seem to have a real problem with the idea that what was true about a car brand when they were 22 isnt’ true for all time. It’s all comes down to who happens to be in charge at any given moment.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “The B&B seem to have a real problem with the idea that what was true about a car brand when they were 22 isnt’ true for all time. It’s all comes down to who happens to be in charge at any given moment.”

      Exactly right.

      And after the economy crashed, in 2009 my 7 year old Odyssey with 73K miles of my wife toodling around town with the kids, plus a couple of out of town trips, decided to announce that its transmission had sh!t the bed.

      Now, I had been a VERY loyal and vocal fan of American Honda. Since about 1983, they had earned it every step of the way. My family bought Hondas. My friends bought Hondas. I was very vocal about it. I let the dealer do service. I had 20 years of service relationship with that one dealer. They knew me. And American Honda had, on a few occasions, bent over backwards to take care of me in unusual circumstances. I am happy to tell the details of those stories.

      But what happened when my van needed a transmission, like every other van Honda built since 1999? Because they couldn’t figure out how to make a transmission for a big heavy powerful vehicle? After years of Honda bending over backwards for OTHER people, replacing their transmissions?

      Well, the economy had crashed–and so some executive decided, “we’re doing away with the goodwill warranty–yes, even on transmissions that we know were bad to begin with.” When I went to my dealer with this, both the service manager and the general manager warned me–it’s not like before, expect nothing from American Honda on this. And they were right. American Honda wanted nothing to do with making this right. They dumped their goodwill warranty–and my business for good.

      Wow, I thought to myself. I might as well have bought a Chrysler. In one fell swoop, I swore never to spend another dime with American Honda. And 13 years later, I am still telling this story.

      Fast forward, and my garage looks NOTHING like it would have, had Honda simply done what was right. Excuse me–if some executive at Honda hadn’t decided to throw away EVERY bit of goodwill in one fell swoop, in order to “save money” after the crash and likely save his bonus.

      In December 2017, I decided that all carmakers and all cars are likely to be that bad–therefore it didn’t matter what I bought, I’d have to deal with it. So I bought something I never thought I would: a GTI. Now I have two of them. And those cars are MORE reliable than the van Honda decided was my problem to deal with.

      And now–drum roll, please–I actually do have a Chrysler van in my garage.

      American Honda clearly jumped the shark. The emperor has no clothes. But hey, if you want to fool yourself into thinking that American Honda and its products today are just like they were in the 80s, you probably shouldn’t be buying a car.

      • 0 avatar

        jalop1991, what was the problem with transmission?

      • 0 avatar
        Illan

        this is the same america honda that screwed the 2010 Civic launch and had to do an emergency redesign to do damage control.

        https://www.autonews.com/article/20130107/ZZZ_SPECIAL/301079735/how-honda-hustled-to-redo-civic

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “Wow, I thought to myself. I might as well have bought a Chrysler.”

        This is what I told the Honda regional manager while dealing with my lemon 05 Odyssey. His mouth fell open. In the end, I did go back to a Dodge for my next van, and then on to Kia.

        I won’t be back soon. Unlike you, that was my only data point for Honda, made worse since I had just gone through that with VW.

        I’d consider a Civic, though. The 22s look OK.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          “I’d consider a Civic, though. The 22s look OK.”

          That’s the difference between us: no matter how OK that Civic looks, I won’t consider it. There are way too many alternatives, and I won’t spend my money where the manufacturer has made it clear how they’ll treat me.

          Will any other manufacturer treat me any differently? I don’t know–but I do know how American Honda is likely to treat me. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

          Corolla looks great in that space, as does Mazda3. Jetta is fantastic in that space. And if Chrysler bothered to play, I’d take a serious look.

          American Honda should be ashamed of itself for letting itself go like they have. Cylinder deactivation that destroys cylinders (hey, but it probably lasts the length of the lease and warranty!), turbos that suck gasoline into the crankcase (their answer: “well, just change the oil more often”), hybrid batteries that failed and their answer was a software change that basically disabled much of the battery use so long as it made it to the length of the warranty, forcing the user to use more gasoline…

          At one point back in the day, American Honda did some wonderful engineering. Starting in 1998 that all changed, and it got bad at an accelerating pace over the years. People remember the Hondas they bought in the 80s and 90s, and continue to do business with Honda based on that–leasing their cars for 3 years at a stretch, frequently never seeing or caring about the consequences of Honda’s bad engineering decisions as they never pay a repair bill, just a continuous lease payment instead.

        • 0 avatar
          Oberkanone

          You missed out on VW Routan. Checks all the boxes.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Similarly, the automakers routinely game the EPA fuel economy standards among other things.

    I think the bottom line is that most cars today are really pretty good. The difference between the top and median, bottom and median is generally not a huge distance in terms of problems per 100 vehicles.

    The metric itself is really hard to quantify when a “problem” can mean so many things. The seat warmer makes my a$$ to warm is a problem. “I can still hear my kids in the backseat” could be a problem. “I am technologically illiterate” can be a problem.

    The idea that nothing has fallen apart in the first 6 months is not a high bar in this day…in my opinion, but I dont buy Chryslers…..sooooooo, there’s that. Maybe its higher than I think.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Gaming can be a thing, sure.

      But companies also change their focus. Honda’s research said they weren’t selling as many cars as they would like at the margins they would like because they didn’t have enough model variety and the variety they did have wasn’t sufficiently customized to the local market. So they increased model variety and customization and as a result quality fell.

      In the case of Ram and Dodge a similar meeting could occur and the research says they aren’t selling as many vehicles as they would like at the margins they would like because among other reasons initial quality is low. They then say, why is that? Have we been releasing tech before it’s ready, do we not have enough post production QA people? So they hire more software testers and production QA folks and initial quality goes up.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “I think the bottom line is that most cars today are really pretty good.”

      Let’s not go overboard here.

      Let’s just say they all suck equally, as do the manufacturers. (You might convince me to take Lexus out of this discussion.)

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        Well, I have been out of school for more than 23 years and between my wife and I have have bought or leased 14 new cars putting an average of 15k miles per year on each. In roughly 700,000 miles driven between several brands, (Mazda, Nissan, Honda, Buick, Ford….even a Land Rover and a VW) we have never been left stranded by a mechanical problem. We have never had a car fail to start. Granted, my cars are mostly leases and the ones I buy I never keep past 100k miles, but I can’t think of too many other complex consumer products that have that kind of reliability. I know that I am one lemon away from taking all of that back, but in the grand scheme of things, cars these days are pretty darn good.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          “Well, I have been out of school for more than 23 years and between my wife and I have have bought or leased 14 new cars putting an average of 15k miles per year on each.”

          Simple math says you lease each car for 3 years and 15K miles/year. As a practical matter, you have chosen a continuous lease payment for cars under warranty over keeping cars and maintaining them.

          In other words, you are the dream customer for the manufacturers. It’s an expensive way to drive.

          • 0 avatar
            thegamper

            Of the 14, I bought 4 of them. I realize it’s not the cheapest way to go, but for me, new car always under warranty is more than worth it. I can easily afford it and don’t buy expensive cars or things that don’t lease well. I have no desire to deal with squeaks, rattles, maintenance, etc. I’ve owned high mileage used cars before, my 16 year old son has a used Lexus and it’s more than I care to deal with.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have known many people who feel the same way, the only thing I can think of in common is the share the idea of appliances with a limited lifespan as transportation. That may in fact be the most logical view, but its not one I can completely share. I *bought* an appliance vehicle and now I’m putting my mark on it so it no longer feels “beige” to me.

      • 0 avatar
        Lightspeed

        “They all suck equally” yeah, I’d agree. As for Lexus, my 2000 GS is a nicer ride than the brand-new loaners I get when mine goes in for maintenance, and will likely outlast them too.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    J.D. Power’s function in life is to just make money for J.D. Power. That’s it, end of story, of course. If manufacturers are dumb enough to pay for it, to take it seriously, then shame on them. If the general public considers it more than a grain of salt, well: that sure sounds like the general public.

    Some manufacturers are A. using other surveys, and B. trying to make internal performance models to predict their results on these surveys.

    Local engineers tell me that the accuracy of these surveys (and models) are ridiculous and unusable, but they still use them/do it. They say, “Hey… it’s a $150k year job, and of of course speaking common sense about the folly of it is a career killer.”

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Yeh…but there is a very strong tendency for engineers to dismiss consumer complaints as user error. Oh they are saying they can only get their phone to pair 30% of the time – they just aren’t doing it right. I’d take what they say with a grain of salt as well. The truth is somewhere in between.

      • 0 avatar

        jmo: Pairing a phone isn’t the same as the ‘chronic misfire in cylinder 3 on all Pentastar V-6 engines’. My point is some of this stuff doesn’t seem ‘car related’ to me. I get that others do feel it is. Hence the unreliable nature of JDP surveys actually being a good view of whatever vehicle is being considered.

  • avatar
    ajla

    This was a lot of words to say that you don’t know what initial quality scores mean and that you are perpetually living in 1996.

    It’s fine if you think initial quality scores aren’t relevant to you (although I’d disagree) but you’re assigning conclusions to the data that was never claimed. It’s like complaining that someone voted “Sexiest Man Alive” doesn’t have the highest IQ test results.

    JD Power literally also makes a ranking of vehicle dependability and it probably corresponds fairly close to your expectations. Lexus is #1, Land Rover is last and Dodge is slightly below average.

    jdpower.com/business/press-releases/2021-
    us-vehicle-dependability-study-vds

    And FWIW, in the lastest CR ranking Dodge and Ram came in about average as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      There’s a big difference between JDP’s Initial Quality Survey and the Vehicle Dependability Survey report. VDS is based upon surveys of three year old vehicles. IQS ratings can be improved upon by having the sales department go over every aspect of a new vehicle.

      The key to any of these surveys is to check other surveys and compare. Do they point out similar issues? Are there similar trends? It isn’t any different than reviewing medical studies. Review as many as possible. Do they all say similar things? If not, why?

    • 0 avatar

      This just in- VW Beetle is the highest ranked small car in 2021 by JD Powers…

      LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    • 0 avatar
      NG5

      Agree with your comment here.

      No comment on their methods or data because I haven’t seen them, and this article unfortunately doesn’t provide either. But worth noting they have some bad incentives that Consumer Reports thankfully avoids through a lot of work (e.g. renting cars from manufacturers for initial impressions, sending secret buyers to acquire consumer spec models).

      I would imagine the category “initial quality” is especially lucrative BOTH for J D Power and dealers; it allows them to tell companies what buyers find annoying immediately, what smooths out the sale, and gives them an award like this that people far too often confuse for meaningful reliability.

  • avatar
    Jeff_M

    I never gave the JDP stuff any credence at all for one reason: they supposedly ranked “initial” quality. What, when a car is brand new? Even a Yugo looked and smelled good when it was new. What is that worth? I want to know how the quality is down the road, three five, ten years. Now that’s info worth having. “Initial” quality is meaningless in my opinion. I just never knew why anyone would pay any attention to that at all.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      ” I just never knew why anyone would pay any attention to that at all.”

      I’ve read that initial quality very roughly approximates long term reliability. The issue is that brands change their focus over time. In order to make their bonuses did Toyota executives slash the quality requirements on the new Camry? They could have. The only data point you’d have after the first year is initial quality.

      Is the fact that your 2008 Camry was reliable a valid data point? Sure. But that may have been designed with a different team of engineers and executives. There very well might be a different team in charge now.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      Because after you wait 8 years to learn how reliable the new car you want is, it’s tough to find one on the lot. People want as much reliable info as they can get, and ‘initial’ quality is data.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      ” ‘Initial’quality is meaningless in my opinion. I just never knew why anyone would pay any attention to that at all.”

      I consider IQS to be a ranking of user interfaces and initial fit & finish. Those things *do* matter to me when I’m spending $50k+ on a new car but YMMV depending on your use case.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Organizations that commission surveys tend to get their money’s worth.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    Seems like there are some reasons that this could be. First I do think that Ram in particular has been focusing alot on quality. They redesigned their process for the newest Ram not that long ago BUT they stuck to a very sorted engine and transmission. IIRC in 2012 the 5.7 top end got a redesign then some minor adjustments in 14 and has been pretty bullet proof since. The 3.6 is a good engine. The Challenger has been on one list or another for reliability since 2014- again likely because the engine and transmission options are very sorted. The things that were breaking on the new model ram (like sun visors) are likely (hopefully?) fixed by now. It doesn’t seem like this is totally left field over time. Ram in particular seems to really have set a focus starting with the last Ram but really paying off on the newest model imho. Considering what I’ve read about the new Jeep GC process I would guess that is going to start moving up the list too after sorting out some dumb teething issues.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    &Jo:
    “Additionally, they provide a separate, equally pricey service where they help car companies make improvements that should result in higher ratings.”

    I’d say we need some more data here. Do we have any info on what the “help” in question actually is? I mean, it be anything from “for another fifty grand I’ll bump you a point or two,” to “hey, CarManufacturer1, your buyers seem to have a hard time understanding how to work the infotainment system, so why don’t you give them coaching at the dealership at point of purchase and see if that fixes the problem?” The latter is pretty innocuous; the former clearly isn’t.

  • avatar
    brn

    I generally agree with the story, but it should also be pointed out that Dodge has improved dramatically over the last couple of decades. They were on my ‘no buy’ list for a very long time, but I would now consider them.

    As critical as we are of JD Powers, we should be critical of Consumer Reports. Biggest example was them putting a Toyota Camry on the cover, saying it’s a must buy. Turns out they never drove it. Once they did, turned out to be a POS. They didn’t print a new cover with the retractions. That got burried. Look at true badge engineered vehicles over the decades in their magazine. The exact same underlying vehicle can get drastically different reliability ratings. I could go on.

    This even applies to the likes of IIHS. I’ve seen cars that get top scores in every test not make it to a top pick. Why? They didn’t bother dong one test, so called the score incomplete. As such, not only don’t the vehicles become a top pick, but don’t get rated at all, severely impacting sales.

    Our current world is turning me into a conspiracy theorist.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the badge engineering findings. I think it’s been proven that someone who buys a Corolla because it’s considered reliable will fail to recall the very same issues someone who bought a Geo Prism is furious about.

      CR is reporting the facts accurately, it’s the humans who are unreliable. It’s something you should keep in mind when someone claims Toyotas never break down and Land Rovers are in the shop all the time. And then you look at the actual numbers and the gap is nowhere near as large.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        I agree with your analysis (both of them). It’d be great if CR presented it that way. They don’t. Another issue with CR is they their data isn’t just based on humans. It’s based on their existing customers, who are already conditioned to believe certain things.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the badge engineering findings. I think it’s been proven that someone who buys a Corolla because it’s considered reliable will fail to recall the very same issues someone who bought a Geo Prism is furious about.”

        I think you’re 100% correct here.

        But confusing the issue of “humans are unreliable” is the un-accounted for factor of how the manufacturer of record handles these issues. For example, I always thought the Matrix was one of the best cars ever made. Would I buy the same car as a Vibe from Pontiac back in the day instead? Probably not–because no way would I be stuck dealing with GM should something go wrong. I would MUCH rather deal with Toyota.

        So that goes into the perception of “quality”.

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    I’ll chime in here, with both a new RAM and new Toyota product.

    Before I start, I will mention I’m a long time German car fan (hence my forum ID), long-time Honda fan, and generally owned mostly imports.

    I bought new, a 2019 RAM Rebel 1500 and 2021 Toyota C-HR. The RAM has been flawless in the 2 years I’ve owned it, great fit and finish, no mechanical issues, out of the 10 or so new vehicles I bought in my life, this one is one of the most trouble free, haven’t been back to the dealer since I picked it up.

    The Toyota has also been mostly great, only a minor issue and some minor exterior cosmetic issues that the dealership is taking care of. The RAM has clearly been the less trouble free of the two so far.

    I will say however, RAM / Stellantis dealership service is generally garbage. I’m glad my truck has been so reliably, because I never want to go to the dealership. Toyota service is the opposite, vastly better. This matches up with annual dealership customer service surveys. Stellantis dealerships are near last across the board.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Yes! Dodge (and RAM) have come a very long way. Toyota and Honda aren’t magic.

      Another thing to consider…

      My neighbor recently retired as a Service Advisor. For most of his career, he worked at a GM dealership. For the last ten years, he worked at a Honda dealership. His individual opinion is that the major difference between the brands isn’t the quality of the product, but how the customers treat their cars. Generally, GM owners wait until something breaks to bring the car in. Honda owners are much more likely to have all the recommended service performed. Not only does this prevent issues, but it catches issues before they get big.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      If you live in an area where you get cold winters, stay away from the air ride suspension option. I’ve known a few fellows with them and they freeze up often. That’s the only new issue I know about. My son says they are messy to change oil because the swaybar runs where oil typically drains out.

    • 0 avatar
      tobiasfunkemd

      The CDJR dealership experience is a nightmare. We traded in a 2014 Sienna for a 2021 Pacifica Hybrid. Absolutely love the Pacifica – we actually use the plug-in hybrid system and are thrilled with the overall fit and finish. We had to take the Pacifica into our local CDJR dealership in SoCal for a software update and it was a disaster. No one to check in with, lost our key fob at one point, took 30 minutes to pull our car out of the back lot. Just second-rate all around. We have a 2019 F-150 as well and the dealer experience is just night and day. I’m hoping it’s just that one dealership and not a systemic issue.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        Other than having all hybrids go to the hybrid techs, of which there are fewer, my CJDR dealer is as good as my Honda dealer was back in the day. I say that from only a couple interactions on my ’21 PacHy: the software update back in June, and now the PO15E error code that popped up when the weather got cold. (The tech–I trust him very much–immediately said to replace the coolant heater, because in 2018 “they all did this”–but I’m not 100% convinced my CEL coming on twice for this isn’t anything more than a software bug.)

        Of course, it could be that MY dealer is the “just one” and isn’t representative of the CJDR dealer system…

      • 0 avatar
        Mustangfast

        After experiencing SoCal dealers for both my Ford and Mazda a few years back I’d say it’s more location. I couldn’t get an oil change to save my life unless I took a day off work. Only one dealer I could find in OC actually accepted appointments, the others said “it’s a quick service, just walk in” only to find every walk in day was already full by 8 am and none were accepted after 3 pm. My experience in Atlanta is much better

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I’m wary of any surveys or certifications where money is on the table between the involved parties. ISO 9000 certification (and the various iterations following) was performed by the best certification entity that my multinational German chemical corporation (the largest in the world) could buy and, of course, we were certified as fantastic. Color me jaded on such things but I hold this true of surveys conducted such as JD Power, Motor Trend Car of the Year, et al which – shocking – have some sort of financial remuneration involved. Yes, even the unreconstructed hippies of CR but cash on the table is substituted at times by what seems to be ideological beliefs. I admit that I’ll read what these things say but in the end I always use the old nuclear training of my past to ask the question: “Does this make sense or sound reasonable?”. An initial quality survey of some of my purchases would have kept me from the purchases I made – the initial quality of my Vanagon with the failed wheel bearing at 125 miles, the inoperative temperature gauge on my Astro van from when driving off the lot at purchase, the failed cruise control on my Chevy 1500 Cheyenne at 450 miles. Eh, all three ended up serving me in excess of 100k each and I miss them – they were great vehicles that required nothing but occasional routine maintenance. In all cases of vehicles that I owned for long years and mileage, the initial quality was, for me, meaningless. Long term reliability which CR attempts to chart is more useful I believe – once again, read what they say, “Does this make sense? Is this reasonable?”. Yes, CR’s charting of course has loyal owner bias but there is usually quite a large tranche of responses to water this down to meaningful data. Research it a bit to verify and make a decision.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    Good for them. Not saying Chrysler/ dodge have been deserving of accolades on an ongoing basis , but they are the most underrated and “under the radar “. at most times ( I don’t work there )

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I’ve had 4 FCA vehicles in a row, a 2003 Ram 1500, an ’08 Charger R/T, a ’10 Challenger R/T, and my present car, an ’18 Challenger R/T Scatpack. The Ram was nearly perfect for the 60K miles I had it, with only a rear end failure at 7K due to a pin left out at the American Axle factory to blemish it’s record, it was fixed in one day and went on wihout a single issue. I only traded it for the Charger due to a severe leg injury that made it risky for me to get into. It’s still driving around, rusted badly, at 220K+ without a major failure. My Charger’s only issues in the almost 3 years/42000 miles were all pothole related due to some of the awful roads we had over the 2010-2015 tears that caused endless front end issues. Not the car’s fault. The only real problem it had over the 7 years I owned it was it had an seeminly unble to be fixed slight evaporative system leak that caused a CEL, and disabling the remote start. Somehow, they fixed it after I traded the car in, in a single day. Hmmm. My Scatpack has been flawless since I bought it in July ’17. It’s got some parking lot dings, but when cleaned up, it still looks great, inside and out. Nothing shows any wear, except the “Sport” button is shiny from my calloused finger. No rattles, squeaks, groans or anything else, unlike my 2010 Challenger, which squeaked and groaned when it was cold inside. I love the thing, my favorite vehicle, ever. Nothing else comes close. It’s the car I basically dreamed of owning at 18 in 1974, but better in every way. And in general, I have no complaints about the dealers, either. In my experience over the 43 years of buying cars, the worst, and best, have been Dodge/Ram dealers. The worst in 1977, nothing comes close, and the best was from 2003 until 2017. If that dealer, that I bought three vehicles in a row from, had matched the price the dealer did in 2017, I never would have switched.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Did we get an article like this when the Koreans swept the top three spots in 2019? Everyone knows Genesis fanboys aren’t going to say anything bad about their vaunted cars. Why does the survey suddenly need analysis when it’s two American brands, which have been unfairly criticized for years.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If Dodge was at the bottom before, are you suggesting they bought the #1 spot this time around?

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    * Consumer Reports is garbage. They blew their own cover when admitting to giving Toyota high ratings for new products based on their reputation without even testing their newest products. I wouldn’t buy a toaster based on their ratings let alone a car. Their products are for lazy dopes who don’t have the wherewithal to research products on their own to figure out what to buy.

    * JDP’s business model is no different than many, many other research and consulting companies out there. Nielsen, Bain, Gartner, the stuff Accenture and PwC puts out, and the scumbags at McKinsey. Nothing to see here. One of my clients paid millions to a Silicon Valley branding firm to come up with a positioning statement that more or less said “Computers R Us.” A lot of these firms rake in big time cash just to cover the butts of the people who hire them — so they won’t get fired for making a dumb decision. So they hire consultants to make the dumb decisions for them in order to keep their jobs or, most of the time, bolt for yet another job after 12-18 months before everybody figures out what complete imbeciles they are.

    * Their reporting of issues is not suspect. If a component of a vehicle is “working perfectly” yet confused a consumer in its operation — that’s an issue — unless you want to adopt the German-like attitude of “zee consumer is too schtupid to figure out dat to turn on zee radio you need to jiggle zee joystick east then vest then north then zouth before inserting your middle digit in zee cigarette lighter.”

    * Helping companies get higher scores is a simple consulting assignment to get survey feedback for future tests instead of bribing the firm to goose its ratings. If a brand has issues, it can approach JDP, ask them to analyze the results, and have them issue some recommendations. For example, if 30% of people surveyed found the voice recognition software wasn’t coming up with appropriate answers — that is extremely valuable information to (a.) address an undiscovered problem in order to (b.) provide a better consumer experience for long-term positive word of mouth and repeat sales.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Just a quick comment on this:

    “The LX platform Dodge builds the Charger on has roots in the 1990s Mercedes-Benz E-Class”

    The only thing that the LX platform shared with the E-Class was rear suspension componentry, which was retired with the 2011 LX update. Planning and engineering for the LX platform was well under way prior to the regrettable “merger of equals”.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The planning and engineering for the LX platform came from the Renault derived Eagle Premier/Dodge Monaco.
      The E-Class and S-class Benz supplied the rear suspension bits and I think the front shock towers as well.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I seem to recall reading LX was being derived from the original LH designs which allowed for RWD/AWD applications.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yup and Chrysler was ready to go to tooling with the dusted off LH RWD designs and then the greater of the equals sent the engineers back to the drawing board with the mandate to use the Mercedes bits rather than tool up for the Chrysler designs.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “The only thing that the LX platform shared with the E-Class was rear suspension componentry”

      I believe my 2014 Charger RT used a Mercedes-designed 5-speed automatic, driveshaft, differential, and power window components as well.

  • avatar
    DungBeetle62

    Yeah, yeah, that LAST line of the story is what sticks out. Dodge was DEAD LAST in the survey last year. What changed? The product lineup? The technology? The check written to JD Power?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      My money is on the check, though interestingly enough the Dodge Journey was finally retired in MY20. Could the Journey have been holding them back *that* much?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_Journey

  • avatar
    Garrett

    I think there’s a basic misunderstanding as to what “quality” is.

    Quality is the extent to which a product meets the intended specifications and the customer’s expectations.

    A basic 2003 Hyundai Accent which has manual door locks and crank windows that has no defects will be of a higher quality than a 2022 Rolls Royce that has seats where the leather dye is slightly different, and your phone won’t pair.

    While I’d gladly suffer the Rolls Royce, things like luxury, comfort, etc. are not quality. They are different measures.

    If an infotainment unit works as intended but does not meet the expectations of the user, it is of poor quality.

  • avatar
    07NodnarB

    Payola is obviously alive and doing fine, in other industries besides that of music…mmmhmmm.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    I’m surprised at how good Mopars have been the last few years. 2014 Challenger, 100k mikes, one tire pressure sensor. 2018 RAM 2500 Cummins, 65k miles, zero defects.

    I purchased a 2017 RAM 1500 while the wife purchased a 2018 Z71 GMC. The RAM has 60k miles, they replaced a LED in the overhead console. The GMC with 38k miles. Fuel injectors, fuel rail, throttle body, some solenoid in the transmission and the radio. Sunroof leaks which repeated trips to the dealer has been unable to rectify.

    It seems Mopar isn’t the one of old any more.

    I remember when Chrysler products were pre-rusted like Vegas, leaked water like sieves and rattled like an old Soviet farm tractor.

  • avatar
    macmcmacmac

    My Chrysler 200 rocks. It deserved a much better fate.

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