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J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study: Kia and Dodge Reign

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Auto123 takes a look at J.D. Power's annual Initial Quality study, a study that's worth taking into account, though perhaps with a small grain of salt. In our view, it provides a snapshot more than a long-term picture of what vehicles deliver over the typical ownership period.

For the first time, a U.S. automaker ranks first in the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, which is in its 34th year in 2020. The honour goes to Dodge, which tied with Kia for first place.

The Korean automaker ranked second in last year’s study, but has led the way among mass-market brands for the past six years in the survey. It’s now been matched by Dodge, which made an impressive seven-place jump from eighth in 2019 to first this year. What’s more, Dodge is one of seven U.S. automakers in the top half of J.D. Power's study of initial vehicle quality.

2020 Kia Forte 5
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Kia Forte 5

Their score of 136 PP100 (136 problems encountered per 100 vehicles) place Dodge and Kia ahead of Chevrolet and Ram (each at 141 PP100) and Genesis (142 PP100), with Mitsubishi (148 PP100) and Buick (150 PP100) completing the top five positions when taking into account the tied brands. GMC, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Jeep and Lexus round out the top 10.

Mitsubishi and Lexus are the only Japanese brands to make it into the top 10 in 2020. For the former, 2020 has been more than positive as it jumps 24 spots in the ranking compared to 2019. Genesis, meanwhile, is the top-performing premium brand.

The case of Tesla
There is also a first this year that J.D. Power releases scores based on surveying of Tesla owners. And rankly it's not a good debut in the study for the EV brand, as its score of 250 PP100 places it dead last, behind Land Rover and its 228 PP100 score.

It should be noted that Tesla's score is not "official" in the study, as questionnaires were only available in 35 of the U.S. states. In fact, Tesla is the only manufacturer that did not allow J.D. Power to survey Tesla owners in the 15 states where manufacturer permission is required.

Tesla Model Y
Photo: Tesla
Tesla Model Y

Common problems
According to J.D. Power, about one-third of all glitches reported by owners of 2020 model year vehicles in the first three months of ownership are related to technology and multimedia system problems. In many cases, the systems themselves are not faulty, but they are proving complicated for owners to use or are not working as well as they should.

While it’s tempting to downplay these sorts of issues, they are "just as severe as other problems," according to Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power, especially since "customer is stuck with this [issue] for the rest of the time they own the vehicle."

2020 Lexus ES, dashboard
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Lexus ES, dashboard

The methodology
Each year, J.D. Power surveys new vehicle owners via a questionnaire that covers 223 potential problems in nine categories: climate, driver assistance, driving experience, exterior, features/control/display, multimedia, interior, powertrain and seating.

This year's study has been redesigned to better pinpoint the issues owners face in the real world, with a renewed focus on high-tech features and driver assistance technologies. This has resulted in an increase in the average number of reported problems per vehicle compared to previous years, but it’s important to note this does not mean that they have become less reliable.

"Consumers experience these problems in the real world, whether we ask them or not," Sargent concludes.

2020 Genesis G70
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Genesis G70

Here are the rankings for 2020 (with PP100 scores):

1.    Dodge (136)
2.    Kia (136)
3.    Chevrolet (141)
4.    Ram (141)
5.    Genesis (142)
6.    Mitsubishi (148)
7.    Buick (150)
8.    GMC (151)
9.    Volkswagen (152)
10.    Hyundai (153)
11.    Jeep (155)
12.    Lexus (159)
13.    Nissan (161)
14.    Cadillac (162)
15.    Infiniti (173)
16.    Ford (174)
17.    Mini (174)
18.    BMW (176)
19.    Honda (177)
20.    Toyota (177)
21.    Lincoln (182)
22.    Mazda (184)
23.    Acura (185)
24.    Porsche (186)
25.    Subaru (187)
26.    Chrysler (189)
27.    Jaguar (190)
28.    Mercedes-Benz (202)
29.    Volvo (210)
30.    Audi (225)
31.    Land Rover (228)
32.    Tesla (250)

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross