Ram Wins Top Honors in JD Power Initial Quality Study in 2021

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Among all automakers, the integration of smartphones produces the highest number of complaints

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Ram ranked first for overall new vehicle quality in the 2021 JD Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), while third-placed Lexus led the premium brands. The study also found that infotainment systems, and in particular the integration of smartphones, have the most problematic flaws in new cars, according to consumers.

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The U.S. study surveyed 2021 model year vehicle owners after 90 days of owning or leasing, and this year the responses were 110,827 people. The 223-question survey is divided into nine vehicle categories including powertrain, seats, driving experience, controls and displays, and more.

The 2021 study showed a 2% improvement for new vehicles over the 2020 study, but it’s still 3% less than the average improvement rate over the past decade. Quality is measured by the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). A lower score means higher quality, and this year the industry average is 162 PP100.

The study mainly names the brands of car manufacturers, but among individual vehicles, the Nissan Maxima achieved the highest score of all models, with only 85 PP100.

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In the study, 25 percent of all issues cited were about infotainment. Previously, speech recognition was the main issue in all studies, starting in 2011; but this year the main complaint is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, especially when used wirelessly.

  1. Porsche and Mini lead with JD Power for service satisfaction

    Porsche and Mini lead with JD Power for service satisfaction

  2. This is how JD Power became an automatic data center

    This is how JD Power became an automatic data center

“Owners are caught in the middle when vehicle and phone technologies don’t connect properly,” said Dave Sargeant, vice president of automotive quality at JD Power. “This year there are many examples of smartphone technologies not performing as expected in new vehicles. Sargeant added that the problem is shared with the tech companies supplying the systems, but automakers are hearing the complaints. “The owners don’t care who is at fault; they just want their phone and vehicle to talk to each other.

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The study found that mainstream brands outperform premium brands, in part because high-end automakers tend to use more complex technology that can be problematic for some owners. Among the premium brands, only Lexus and Genesis did better than the industry average of 162 PP100.

Tesla is not officially ranked among other brands because it does not meet JD Power’s ranking criteria. Fifteen states require an automaker’s permission to survey its customers, and Tesla denies it in all of them. Using surveys of homeowners in the remaining 35 states, JD Power gave Tesla an unofficial score of 231 PP100, an improvement of 19 PP100 from last year’s survey.

A Lexus undergoing quality assurance at the Lexus Canada TMMC plant.
A Lexus undergoing quality assurance at the Lexus Canada TMMC plant. Photo from Lexus Canada

Automakers ranking above the industry average of 162 PP100, in order, were Ram at 128 PP100, followed by Dodge, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Kia, Genesis, Hyundai, Jeep, Chevrolet, Mini, Buick, Toyota and Ford, which came to 162 PP100.

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The automakers scoring below average were Lincoln and Porsche tied at 163, followed in order by GMC, Honda, Jaguar, BMW, Infiniti, Cadillac, Mazda, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Land Rover, Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Volkswagen, Audi, and finally Chrysler, at 251 PP100.

The study also included Plant Quality Awards, which recognize factories that produce vehicles with the fewest defects or malfunctions, regardless of design issues. The Platinum Award went to Toyota Motor Corporation’s Motomachi 2 plant in Japan, which builds the Lexus LC.

The Gold Award for Americans went to the Nissan Smyrna 1 plant in Tennessee, which builds the Murano; while the Gold Award for the Europe / Africa regions went to the BMW plant in Dingolfing 2 in Germany, which manufactures the BMW 7 Series and 8 Series.

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