J.D. Power overhauls its Initial Quality Study for 2020, resulting in a shake-up that sees domestic brands having their best showing in years.
Give it up for the local talent. J.D. Power has released its annual Initial Quality Study for 2020, and numerous domestic automakers have surged ahead this year. No less than half of the top 10 manufacturers are American, and one ties for the top spot overall.
First, a note for anybody comparing 2019’s results to this: the vastly higher average number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) isn’t due to reduced reliability. “The higher problem levels we see in this year’s study don’t mean vehicle quality has worsened,” said Dave Sargent, VP of vehicle quality at J.D. Power, “rather, the redesigned study asks additional questions that allow owners to cite more of the problems that they are experiencing.”
The IQ Study polls owners on various issues and problems they encounter in the first 90 days of new-car ownership. J.D. Power found infotainment to be the biggest hurdle across the board. Nearly 25 percent of all problems cited were due to things like smartphone connectivity, touchscreens, voice recognition, and navigation systems.
With that out of the way, let’s get to those top makes, in ascending order.
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We start with the largest Korean automaker. As a parent company (including Kia and Genesis) Hyundai scored the most segment-level wins with seven individual model awards. H-branded models to top their segment include the sporty Veloster and the compact Tucson crossover.
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The rebalanced 2020 IQS sees Volkswagen move from the bottom 10 to the top 10. The German brand didn’t score any outright segment wins, but the Jetta did slide onto the podium in the compact car class. Consider this a show of support for VW’s straight-forward infotainment systems.
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General Motors’ truck-and-SUV brand slots into eighth place with a PP100 score of 151, or 15 higher than the industry average. The GMC Sierra is the brand’s best-performing model; it actually out-performed its platform-mate, the Chevrolet Silverado.
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With news that it’s cancelling its cars, Buick will join GMC as the other car-free General Motors brand. The near-luxury brand is now all crossovers, all the time. Buick will continue to focus on the high-riders this year, with the introduction of the slightly-larger Encore GX and a revised Envision on the way for 2021.
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Here’s a surprise: Mitsubishi is the lone Japanese brand in the top 10 this year. Just three brands from the country scored above the industry average: the other two were Nissan (161 PP100) and Lexus (159). Even more surprising: Mitsubishi ranked third-last in 2019! Chalk up this year’s result to the brand’s no-frills approach to motoring, with straight-forward infotainment and high ease of use.
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The Korean brand held onto its title as the top luxury model in the IQS for 2020. That’s even more impressive when we consider Genesis has done that since it debuted in 2017. The real test will come in the next 12 months: the brand is debuting the new G80 and, more importantly, the GV80, its first SUV. Both will come with a reimagined infotainment system—how well customers take to it will determine the brand’s 2021 ranking.
03 (Tie). Ram
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FCA scores two podium finishes this year, with its Ram truck division tying for third. The American manufacturer completely re-did the 1500 for the 2019 model year, introducing more mature styling, mild-hybrid systems, and including the return of a light-duty diesel option. A big ol’ infotainment system sits right in the middle of the center console—in portrait orientation no less—but FCA’s Uconnect system is one of the best in the business.
03 (Tie). Chevrolet
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The Bowtie brand shares third place with Ram for 2020. Chevrolet benefitted from two segment leaders: the mid-size Malibu sedan and the sub-compact Sonic. What’s more, the Sonic was the best-rated car overall, scoring just 103 PP100. Chevy’s crossover and SUV lineup also performed well, with segment podium spots for models including the Trax, Equinox, Blazer, and Tahoe.
01 (Tie). Kia
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Some things don’t change. For the sixth year in a row, Kia is the highest-ranked mass market brand in the IQS. With four segment winners—the Forte, Sedona, Sorento, and Soul—it’s hardly surprising. Customers have flocked to the Korean brand for years because of its high perceived value. More recently the brand has ladled on style and tech without any reliability worries, and this year’s results bear that out.
01 (Tie). Dodge
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In a first for any domestic brand, Dodge tops the charts in J.D. Power’s IQS. It ties Kia with just 136 problems reported per 100 cars. Dodge has a two-pronged advantage here: it uses FCA’s intuitive Uconnect infotainment system, and most of its models, such as the Challenger, Charger, and Journey, have been in production for a long, long time. It’s given the American automaker plenty of time to target and fix any issues, and judging by this win, its work has paid off.