The global leader in automotive insights, J.D. Power, has released the results of their 2020 Initial Quality Survey. The study has identified both Dodge and Kia tied in rankings for the mainstream brands that are highest in initial quality. Genesis tops the chart for premium brands.

The 2020 Initial Quality Study took a different approach from previous years. For the first time, it draws data related to “components that fail and features that are difficult to use, hard to understand, or don’t work the way owners want.”

Regarded as an industry benchmark for build quality during the first 90 days of a customer’s ownership, everyone including customers, dealerships, publications, and manufacturers closely watches the rankings. In many cases, it can sway a customer’s decision on which model to purchase.

As is common, the rankings are determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, expressed as PP100, with a lower number reflecting fewer concerns, thus higher quality. 

Domestic Brands Rank Higher, Mostly

Above the industry average of 166 PP100, seven domestic brands reside in the 2020 survey. Dodge finds itself at the top with 136 PP100, albeit with a modest number of models in its lineup. Chevrolet and Ram are just back at 141 PP100, Buick at 150 PP100, GMC at 151 PP100, Jeep at 155 PP100, and Cadillac at 162 PP100. Only Ford, Lincoln, and Chrysler fall below the industry average while Tesla unofficially ranks as the worst in the pack. 

Premium Brands Have Some Issues

Generally, premium brands tend find themselves below the industry average with users having more issues with complex technology. Genesis led premium brands with 142 PP100 with Lexus and Cadillac both above average also. Infiniti, BMW, Lincoln, Acura, Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Audi, and Land Rover make up most of the rankings below the average.

Import Lines Slump

Although known for reliability, most import brands fell below average. Kia tied for top spot while Volkswagen came in at 152 PP100, Hyundai at 153 PP100, and Nissan at 161 PP100.  MINI, Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and Subaru were well back from average. initial quality

What the 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study Tells Us

Dealers can glean insights into customer wants and needs from surveys like the Initial Quality Study, especially from the new ranking system used by J.D. Power for 2020. Since it’s more than just physical repairs being ranked, it gives a clearer into what customers find important. 

Tech is Important

Many of the issues contributing to rankings below average for domestic carmakers as well as premium brands is on the back of technology. Increasingly, new models are arriving with features that customers find valuable. That includes safety-forward features like adaptive cruise control, voice recognition, and the largest touchscreens put into cars yet.

Car buyers tend to have some difficulty using new technology in vehicles, especially during this very important 90-day initial quality period. The car that ranked highest, the Chevrolet Sonic, received a score of just 103 PP100, but in a model with fewer tech options than the bulk of those purchased in the survey period.

How to Use Tech is Crucial

Nearly one in four of the issues cited by new car owners for the IQS survey in 2020 were for infotainment alone. That includes Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, touchscreen, navigation, and voice recognition concerns.

It may be that some systems aren’t as intuitive or experience failure rates higher than average. But it’s most likely that customers simply aren’t being shown how to use their infotainment systems well at the point of delivery, and that’s likely true for other ADAS tech.

Manufacturers can take these rankings back to their engineers to help make their systems more user-friendly, but dealerships can also educate customers better on how to use key features. 

  • Integrate infotainment and ADAS system coaching into every new car delivery.
  • Follow up with customers a few days after purchase to see if they’re having any concerns. 
  • Share resources from the manufacturer’s website by email to walk customers through their tech.

Another idea would be to have someone new to your store explore a tech-heavy new model and report back on which systems were confusing. Then, ensure your delivery coordinators cover those systems well to help alleviate initial quality reports.


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

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