The J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), released recently, takes an updated look at the problems owners are having with their new vehicles, including those related to new technologies. The study, redesigned this year, measures components that fail and features that are difficult to use, hard to understand or don’t work the way owners want.
“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, examines 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.
Following are key findings of the 2020 study:
• 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 receives 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 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.
• Chevrolet Sonic achieves the best score of any model: The Chevrolet Sonic, with just 103 PP100, has the best score of any model in this year’s study.
• Jaguar receives first-ever model-level award: The Jaguar E-Pace is the first Jaguar model to earn an IQS award, with a score of 159 PP100.
“Initial quality is critical to the overall new-vehicle ownership experience,” Sargent said. “In the next few weeks we will complete the picture by providing results from the J.D. Power APEAL Study, which measures the positive experiences customers have from owning and driving their new vehicle, and the J.D. Power TXI Study, which measures how well automakers are introducing all-new technology into their vehicles. Successful manufacturers will examine all these areas as they strive to design and build even better vehicles.”
Highest-Ranking Brands and Models
Dodge and Kia tie for highest in overall initial quality, each with a score of 136 PP100. Dodge is the first domestic brand in the study’s history to rank highest. This is the sixth consecutive year that Kia is the highest-ranked mass market brand. Chevrolet and Ram place third in a tie (each with 141 PP100). Genesis is the highest ranked premium brand for the fourth consecutive year in the study.
The parent corporation receiving the most model-level awards is Hyundai Motor Group (seven awards), followed by General Motors Company (six); BMW AG (three); Ford Motor Company (three); Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (three); and Toyota Motor Corp.(two). Among brands, Cadillac and Kia each receive four awards.
• Hyundai Motor Group models that rank highest in their respective segments are Genesis G70; Hyundai Tucson; Hyundai Veloster; Kia Forte; Kia Sedona; Kia Sorento; and Kia Soul.
• General Motors Company models that rank highest in their segments are Cadillac CT5; Cadillac CT6; Cadillac Escalade;Cadillac XT4; Chevrolet Malibu; and Chevrolet Sonic.
• BMW AG models that rank highest in their segments are BMW 8 Series; BMW X6; and MINI Cooper.
• Ford Motor Company models that rank highest in their segments are Ford Mustang; Ford Ranger; and Ford Super Duty.
• Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. models that rank highest in their segments are Nissan Armada; Nissan Maxima; and Nissan Murano.
• Toyota Motor Corp. models that rank highest in their segments are Lexus GX and Toyota Tundra.
Other models that rank highest in their respective segments are Audi A3 and Jaguar E-Pace.
Plant Quality Awards
General Motors Company‘s Yantai Dongyue 2 (China) plant, which produces the Buick Envision, receives the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles with the fewest defects or malfunctions. Plant quality awards are based solely on defects and malfunctions and exclude design-related problems.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Toluca (Mexico) plant, which produces the Dodge Journey and Jeep Compass, and Toyota Motor Corp.’s TMMT (Turkey) plant, which produces the Toyota C-HR, receive the Gold Plant Quality Award for the Americas and Europe/Africa regions, respectively.
“The fact that the top plants in each region are outside of the traditional areas of the U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan and Korea is a sign of just how global the auto industry has become,” Betts said. “China and Turkey have been represented in the study for less than 10 years, so to say this achievement is impressive is an understatement.”
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.
Find detailed information on vehicle quality, as well as model photos and specs, at jdpower.com/quality.
For more information about the U.S. Initial Quality Study, visit http://www.jdpower.com/resource/us-initial-quality-study-iqs.