Dodge, Kia Take First Place in 2020 J.D. Power Quality Study; Tesla Way Down in Last

  • Kia and Dodge tied as the best in the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, each averaging just 136 problems in the first 90 days of ownership per 100 cars.
  • Dodge follows up on a good showing in last year’s Consumer Reports reliability study by taking the top spot here. It’s the first time one of the U.S. Big Three has hit number one.
  • Tesla wouldn’t let J.D. Power conduct surveys, so the trendy EV maker wasn’t officially ranked. But it did have more problems than any other automaker, 250 per 100. Industry average this year was 166.

For the first time ever, domestic automakers took the top—and bottom—position in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS). The top honor belongs to Dodge, which tied with Kia for first place, while the bottom rung, such as it is, was filled by Tesla.

There was more good news from the Fiat Chrysler stable, as FCA’s overall performance was better than the industry average for first time in its history, moving up seven places since last year. Ram also moved way, way up, coming in third after being buried down at 21 last year. The IQS attempts to measure the quality of new vehicles, calculating the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership, what J.D. Power calls PP100. The lower the PP100 number, the higher that model’s or brand’s quality.

Other highlights from this year’s IQS include the Chevrolet Sonic taking the title of Highest Initial Quality Model with its score of 103. That’s the lowest PP100 recorded of any new vehicle this year. The highest-ranked minivan was the Kia Sedona, while the Ford Ranger was the highest-ranked mid-size pickup and the Toyota Tundra was the highest-ranked light-duty truck.

One reason brands move up and down so much in the IQS is that it isn’t just measuring things that break or are put together poorly. Instead, it counts the number of “problems” that new car owners report having. Those could be actual problems – like a faulty electric connection—or it could be a “problem” that some people have, but not others, like not liking some quirk of the HMI. Just because you’re not a fan doesn’t mean that the engineers didn’t do a good job, but for J.D. Power, they’re all lumped into the PP100 number.

Even with the “I just don’t like this” aspect of the IQS, things are going right for Dodge these days. Last year, Dodge took a Top Ten spot on Consumer Reports’ reliability study, the only U.S. brand to do so, thanks to improvements in the Challenger and Grand Caravan. A FCA spokesperson Eric Mayne told Car and Driver that the rise up the ranks is due in part to a “component-level approach to quality” that the company has adopted.

“These outcomes are the result of an intense, ongoing, company-wide effort to prevent issues from getting to the customer and responding with the right urgency and resolution when they do,” FCA North America’s head of quality Mark Champine told C/D. “We are committed to the customer, and this effort will not stop.”

A component-level approach might be one way Tesla could improve its standings in the next IQS. Tesla did not meet J.D. Power’s study criteria, so it wasn’t technically ranked, but people did not like what the EV maker is producing. J.D. Power said that even though Tesla didn’t grant permission to survey its owners in 15 states where they were required, it got enough surveys returned in order to calculate a score for the California company: 250 problems per 100 vehicles.

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