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New-vehicle quality mainly dependent on trouble-free technology

June 26, 2020
Components that fail and features that are difficult to use, hard to understand or don’t work the way owners want negatively affected automaker scores in the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study.
 
The study, released June 24, takes an updated look at the problems owners have with their new vehicles, including those related to new technologies.
 
"The Initial Quality Study is the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality and, year after year, automakers apply the insights they learn from consumers to make positive changes," said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power.
 
"The higher problem levels we see in this year’s study don’t mean vehicle quality has worsened; rather, the redesigned study asks additional questions that allow owners to cite more of the problems that they are experiencing."
 
The study, now in its 34th year, examined problems experienced by owners of new 2020 model-year vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.
 
Key findings of the 2020 study include:
 
Most domestic brands are above average. Seven domestic brands — Dodge (136 PP100); Chevrolet (141 PP100); Ram (141 PP100); Buick (150 PP100); GMC (151 PP100); Jeep (155 PP100); and Cadillac (162 PP100 ) — perform better than the overall industry average of 166 PP100. Collectively, this is the best-ever performance by the Detroit automakers — when compared with the import brands — in the history of the study.
 
Most premium brands are below average. For most of the past decade, mass market brands have improved relative to premium brands, and this trend continues in 2020. Premium brands generally equip their vehicles with more complex technology, which can cause problems for some owners. Genesis (142 PP100), Lexus (159 PP100) and Cadillac (162 PP100) are the only premium brands that perform better than the industry average.
 
Japanese brands fail to regain footing. Once regarded as the gold standard in quality, most Japanese brands have not improved as fast as competitors have and they continue to trail most Korean and domestic brands. Mitsubishi (148 PP100), Lexus (159 PP100) and Nissan (161 PP100) are the only Japanese brands to rank above industry average. "W. Edwards Deming said, ‘Quality is to fulfill the requirements of customers and satisfy them,’ and Japanese automakers excelled at this for quite some time," Sargent said. "But some other automakers have surpassed them in recent years by understanding better what quality means for today’s owners."
 
Tesla profiled for first time. Tesla received an initial quality score of 250 PP100. 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 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. "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."
 
Infotainment is the most problematic category. Almost one-fourth of all problems cited by new-vehicle owners relate to infotainment. Top complaints include built-in voice recognition; Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity; touchscreens; built-in navigation systems; and Bluetooth connectivity.
 
The 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from 87,282 purchasers and lessees of new 2020 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study, which provides manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and drive product improvement, was fielded from February through May 2020.
 
The 2020 redesign marks the fifth generation of the study, which is now based on a 223-question battery organized into nine vehicle categories: infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance (new for 2020); interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate.
 
 

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