Initial Vehicle Quality Problems Reach Record High, Says J.D. Power

Initial vehicle quality has notably declined in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to J.D. Power’s recently released 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS).

Disruptions caused by the pandemic — including supply chain issues, record-high vehicle prices and personnel dislocations — contributed to vehicle problems reaching a record high in the 36-year history of the study. Compared with 2021 results, the industry experienced an 11% increase in problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), which is 18 PP100 worse than last year, resulting in an industry average of 180 PP100. (Editor’s Note: A lower score reflects higher vehicle quality).

General Motors bucked the trend with an improvement in initial quality that landed it in the top position among automotive corporations. Among brands, Buick’s quality improved 17 PP100 year over year, vaulting it from 12th place in 2021 to the highest overall in 2022. Meanwhile, Genesis ranked highest among premium brands.

Just nine of 33 ranked brands improved in-vehicle quality year over year.

“Given the many challenges automakers and their dealers had to face in the past year, it’s somewhat surprising that initial quality didn’t fall even more dramatically,” said David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “In general, initial quality has shown steady improvement throughout the history of this study, so the decline this year is disappointing, yet understandable. Automakers continue to launch vehicles that are more and more technologically complex in an era in which there have been many shortages of critical components to support them.”

Both all-new and continuing models increased in problems, though all-new models worsened the most (23 PP100). The initial quality gap between all-new and continuing models widened in 2022 to 25 PP100 from 20 PP100 in 2021. The 2022 study found four times as many new models performing worse than their segment averages compared with those that performed better than their segment averages.

Mass-market brands averaged 175 PP100, which was 21 PP100 fewer than premium brands at 196 PP100. Premium-brand buyers typically purchase more technology in their vehicles, and the added complexity of that tech increased the likelihood of problems, according to J.D. Power. Given the challenging task of launching new vehicles in the current environment, mass-market carryover vehicles were the most likely to achieve high-ranking initial quality.

“Owners of premium-brand vehicles experience more problems than mass-market vehicle owners, continuing a trend that started in 2016,” Amodeo said. “But some brands, notably Genesis and Lexus, have largely been able to avoid that issue.”

The infotainment category continued to be the most problematic, with an average of 45.0 PP100, which is 19.5 PP100 more problems than the next-highest category. Notably, six of the Top 10 problem areas in the study were infotainment-related.

Owners of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) cited more problems with their vehicles than owners of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE). ICE vehicles averaged 175 PP100, PHEVs averaged 239 PP100 and BEVs (excluding Tesla models) averaged 240 PP100.

Tesla models averaged 226 PP100 and were shown separately from the BEV average because the predominance of Tesla vehicles could obscure the performance of the legacy automakers that have recently introduced BEVs.

Problems with advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) declined in 2021 but increased in 2022. The most problematic ADAS system was lane departure warning/lane-keeping assistance with 4.1 PP100.

Buick was the highest-ranking brand in overall initial quality with a score of 139 PP100. Dodge ranked second at 143 PP100, while Chevrolet came in third at 147 PP100.

Among premium brands, Genesis ranked highest at 156 PP100 and ranked fourth overall. Lexus ranked second at 157 PP100 among premium brands, and Cadillac ranked third at 163 PP100.

The parent corporation receiving the most model-level awards was General Motors (nine awards) followed by BMW (five), the Hyundai Motor Group (three), the Ford Motor Company (two) and Toyota Motor Corp. (two). Among brands, Chevrolet received the most segment awards (six) followed by BMW (four).

The U.S. IQS, now in its 36th year, was based on responses from 84,165 purchasers and lessees of new 2022 model-year vehicles who were surveyed early in their ownership periods. The study was based on a 223-question battery organized into nine vehicle categories: infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance; interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate. The study was fielded between February and May.

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