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J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study: Ram Reaches the Top

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Auto123 takes a look at J.D. Power's 2021 Initial Quality study. As always, this type of ranking is worth a look, and as always it’s best to take it with a small grain of salt. Mostly, it delivers a snapshot view of what new vehicle models deliver over the typical ownership period.

The 2021 rankings for Initial Quality produced by J.D. Power reveal continued improvement for American brands, as Ram took top position for the first time in the rankings’ 35-year history. Recall that last year Dodge became the first U.S. automaker to finish first, in a tie with Kia. Truckmaker Ram finished 19th in 2019, then jumped in the 2020 ranking to fourth place before ascending to the top of the podium this year.

Stellantis had several reasons to feel happy about its performance in the latest J.D. Power survey, with Dodge placing second and Jeep climbing to eighth. Explained Dave Sargent, VP of automotive quality at J.D. Power, to Automotive News, “What it boils down to is just a lot of hard work on the part of the Stellantis team throughout the organization to improve their quality.”

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Dodge Durango
Photo: Dodge
Dodge Durango

How it works
To measure initial quality, J.D. Power surveys new owners and measures the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. A lower score thus represents higher quality. This year the industry average is 162 problems per 100 vehicles, or four fewer than in 2020. 20 of 32 brands ranked showed improvement this year. This year’s study surveyed 110,827 owners and lessees of new 2021 models.

The categories looked at by J.D. Power range across nine elements, including infotainment, features, controls and displays, interior, exterior, driving assistance, powertrain, seats, driving experience, and climate.

The most common complaint this year once again involves vehicles’ multimedia system. More specifically, in 2021 the most aggravating problem for owners has to do with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wireless connectivity problems; last year it was voice recognition system issues that most got owners’ teeth gnashing.

American improvement aside, the top 10 of the rankings was otherwise well populated by Asian brands, starting with Mitsubishi, and followed by the likes of Nissan, Kia, Genesis and Hyundai. Also making the top 10 were Chevrolet and Mini. At the opposite end, Volkswagen-, Audi- and Chrysler-branded vehicles generated the most complaints.

Here are the rankings for 2021 (with PP100 scores):

1.    Ram (128)
2.    Dodge (139)
3.    Lexus (144)
3.    Mitsubishi (144)
5.    Nissan (146)
6.    Kia (147)
7.    Genesis (148)
8.    Hyundai (149)
8.    Jeep (149)
10.    Chevrolet (151)
10.    Mini (151)

12.    Buick (156)
13.    Toyota (157)
14.    Ford (162)
15.    Lincoln (163)
15.    Porsche (163)
17.    GMC (164)
17.    Honda (164)
19.    Jaguar (165)
20.    BMW (166)
21.    Infiniti (170)
22.    Cadillac (173)
23.    Mazda (177)
24.    Subaru (182)
25.    Mercedes-Benz (193)
26.    Acura (200)
26.    Land Rover (200)
28.    Alfa Romeo (204)
29.    Volvo (210)
30.    Volkswagen (213)
31.    Audi (240)
32.    Chrysler (251)

Mitsubishi Outlander
Photo: Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi Outlander

Models
The 2021 ranking also includes the specific models that performed best in a number of segments; here the Hyundai/Kia/Genesis Group led with seven top placings, followed by Toyota/Lexus with five and BMW with four:

Small Car – Hyundai Accent
Small Premium Car – BMW 2 Series
Compact Car – Kia Forte
Compact Premium Car – Lexus RC
Premium Sporty Car – Chevrolet Corvette
Midsize Car – Nissan Altima
Midsize Premium Car – Cadillac CT5
Upper Midsize Premium Car – Genesis G80
Small SUV – Kia Soul
Small Premium SUV – Lexus UX
Compact SUV – Kia Sportage
Compact Premium SUV – BMW X4
Midsize SUV – Nissan Murano
Midsize Premium SUV – Lexus RX
Upper Midsize SUV – Kia Telluride
Upper Midsize Premium SUV – BMW X6
Large SUV – Toyota Sequoia
Large Premium SUV – BMW X7
Minivan – Kia Sedona
Midsize Pickup – Jeep Gladiator
Large Light Duty Pickup – Toyota Tundra
Large Heavy Duty Pickup – Ram 2500/3500

2021 Genesis G80
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2021 Genesis G80