J.D. Power Claims Vehicles Are Becoming Less Reliable


J.D. Power has released its U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2022 and the prognosis could be better. Automobiles are reportedly becoming less reliable and more expensive. While there are certainly valid reasons for this — ongoing supply chain problems, companies transitioning to novel electric powertrains, and remote working environments making it hard to collaborate on engineering — the bottom line is that the whole industry is blowing it.

The study sampled the opinions of 84,165 car buyers (including lessors) between February and May of 2022 to get a sense of how they were finding their new ride. J.D. Power determined that problems rose to a record high for the period, up 11 percent from 2021. That boiled down to an average of 180 problems per every 100 vehicles sampled within the first 90 days of ownership and is the most the outlet has encountered within 36 years.

Breaking things down by manufacturer, Buick took top honors with just 139 reported issues per 100 vehicles. It was followed by Dodge, Chevrolet, Genesis, Kia, and Lexus — all of whom managed under 160 problems per 100 cars.

However, it’s the automakers at the bottom that are the most impressive. Porsche, Infiniti, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Audi, Maserati, and Volvo all averaged at least 200 issues per 100 units — with Chrysler at the very bottom with a score of 265. Polestar and Tesla also averaged some fairly heinous numbers at 226 and 328, respectively. But those two were “not officially ranked” by J.D. Power because they did not meet the study award criteria for sample size.

Truth be told, the sample size probably has a lot to do with some of the big disparities seen between years. I was frankly surprised to see General Motors performing this well after having driven around in some of their recent products. But then I remembered what it’s like to motor in some of the other brands and that U.S. product recalls are already on pace to set a record for 2022.

That said, we usually take the Initial Quality Study with an extra-large grain of salt and are hardly alone in that practice. It’s often a better tool for taking the industry’s temperature as a whole than deciding which individual brands/vehicles will actually be problem-free.

This year, J.D. Power determined that initial quality improved on just nine of the 33 brands surveyed. Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Land Rover, and Audi were the only marques to move up. But I would still argue that the latter half of that list still doesn’t have much reason to celebrate. It’s a lackluster year for just about everyone building cars, with GM being the only brand J.D. Power’s data saw fit to offer any real praise.

So what gives? Well, like last year, the outlet believes that it’s the modern tech going into cars causing a lot of the problems — specifically infotainment systems. This syncs with the claims made in 2021, where a shockingly high percentage of issues were tied to vehicles’ multimedia interface, and also matches the kind of reporting we’re seeing from the latest recall campaigns.

“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,” said David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power, before adding that the global semiconductor chip shortage is undoubtedly playing a role here.

Companies have effectively been building unfinished vehicles in an effort to keep dealers supplied and asked that stores install the absent chips or some other minor component before sale. But it’s looking like that’s not always happening before the vehicle ends up being adopted. While not a good look for dealers, the industry scapegoating them for effectively failing to deliver a completed automobile isn’t going to fly here. Your author sympathizes with the sad state of the economy and ongoing supply chain hardships. But it’s time to start solving those problems if there’s any hope of 2023 being any better.

Amodeo suggested that improved communication for when missing features or absent components will become available would help with customer satisfaction. But a more apt solution might be for the industry to — and get ready to be blown away with this crazy theory — actually finish the damn cars before putting them on the delivery truck and to stop running with cheap, failure-prone touchscreens.

[Image: Muanpare Wanpen/Shutterstock]

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