Vehicle inventory, vehicle pricing, and the supply chain are finally showing improvement. Vehicle quality, on the other hand, is still going the wrong way. That's the takeaway from the 2023 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study that found overall problems exceeded last year's record high. The study surveyed owners of 2022-model-year vehicles to assess the average rate of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership. The average figure for the 32 ranked manufacturers in 2020 was about 166 problems per 100 vehicles. In the 2021 IQS, that dropped to an average of 162. For 2022, the average jumped to 180 problems. For 2023, the PP100 is up to an industry average of 192 — an increase of 30 problems per 100 vehicles in just two years.
Let's get to the good news first: Dodge reclaimed the crown of having the lowest number of problems per 100 vehicles at 140. Buick won last year with 139 PP100, falling to third this year. Dodge was the first American automaker to top the IQS in 2021. Its return as the least problematic gives parent company Stellantis three wins in four years after Ram was crowned in 2021. It also gives U.S. brands a four-peat after Buick topped the chart in 2022 by having owners report the fewest problems.
This year's top 10 is Dodge, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Porsche, Cadillac, Kia, and Lexus. Stellantis gathered a few feathers for its cap, in fact. Maserati showed the largest improvement year-on-year, followed by Alfa Romeo, and Alfa Romeo posted the lowest PP100 among the premium class, beating Porsche and Cadillac. Alfa Romeo has been vocal about working to improve quality, mentioning Lexus as a target. Last year the Japanese brand finished sixth, the Italians finished near the bottom, between Jaguar and Mitsubishi. This year Alfa jumped to third, Lexus dropped to tenth. Ram was the third-best on the list of improvers from 2022 to 2023.
The individual model with the lowest PP100 is the Nissan Maxima.
Now for the troublesome bits. In the words of Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at J.D. Power, "The industry is at a major crossroad and the path each manufacturer chooses is paramount for its future. From persistent problems carrying over from years past to an increase in new types of problems, today’s new vehicles are more complex—offering new and exciting technology—but not always satisfying owners."
To set the table, the IQS asked nearly 94,000 owners and lessees of 2022MY vehicles — 10,000 more respondents than last year — a battery of 223 questions, those questions organized into nine vehicle categories: infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance; interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate. Infotainment continued to be biggest hassle, but problems with features were the big news this year, one of the unexpected findings that some of the features are simple. Respondents mentioned door handles as an issue, for instance, seven out of 10 vehicles with ornery door handles being EVs. Lane departure warning and forward collision/automatic emergency braking systems got called out repeatedly. Drivers of vehicles with Google's Android Automotive Operating System dinged the software enough to create a 25.1 PP100 difference between cars with the software and cars without. And difficulties with wireless charging sound like old issues with Bluetooth connections, the charging pads either not working, working sporadically, or working to well and overheating the phone.
Owners are a tiny bit happier with manufacturer smartphone apps. So that's good.
Among EV-only makers Tesla, Lucid, Polestar, and Rivian, none could be officially ranked because they don't give J.D. Power access to owners in states that require manufacturer consent. With that caveat, survey answers from respondents who own these makes would have put these brands at the bottom of the list. Tesla's 240 PP100 from 2022 worsened to 257 PP100 this year. Polestar improved, but scored 313 PP100, behind Rivian with 282 PP100 but better than Lucid at 340 PP100.
Head to J.D. Power for more information about the survey and details about this year's results.