J.D. Power has once again released its US Vehicle Dependability Study, a comprehensive overview of how owners are finding their three-year-old models.
Now in its 31st year, the study quizzes original owners of 2017 models on the number of issues they’ve had in the last 12 months. It covers 177 potential problems, grouped into eight categories. From there, J.D. Power assigns a vehicle a problems-per-100-vehicles score (PP100).
The good news is that, despite the increasing complexity of cars, this year’s results are the best in the history of the study. Automakers averaged 134 PP100, down two from last year. Not just that, but the most improved category is infotainment. As automakers cram more and more tech into their cars and trucks, this is good to hear.
It’s not all rosy, though. Infotainment is better, but it’s still the most problematic of the categories, with voice recognition, Bluetooth and navigation systems coming in for the most complaints. The other major issue is that crossovers and SUVs, on average, have more problems than cars.
This year’s big improvements came from Cadillac and Mazda, reducing their PP100 scores by 35 and 29, respectively. That wasn’t enough to crack the top 10 for either brand however: read on for the full list.
Ford dropped a full 20 PP100 off its 2019 score, enough to crack the top 10 this year. It’s important to note that the 2017 model year still featured a lot of cars, a far cry from what you’ll find on Blue Oval dealer lots here in the new decade. Nowadays it’s more about the Escape and Ranger—and of course the F-Series pickup. We can’t wait to see the 2025 study though, mostly to see how the Mustang Mach-E impacts Ford’s placement.
09. Chevrolet (tied)
Ford’s cross-town rival just pipped it this year, tying for ninth place with 123 PP100. That sounds like a win, until you see it was fourth last year, with a score of 115. There are a lot of similarities between the 2017 Ford and Chevrolet lineups, not least the still-healthy ranks of sedans. However, the big winners for Chevy were all trucks or crossovers: the Equinox, Silverado HD, and Tahoe all received segment awards.
09. BMW (tied)
Like its fellow ninth-place finisher Chevrolet, BMW posted a worse score for 2020 than it did the year before. The Bavarian brand only averaged a single PP100 more than 2019, but that tiny difference is enough to drop it from seventh.
Ford’s upmarket brand outscored its mainstream sibling, as Lincoln logged a 119 in the 2020 study. In fact, Lincoln had the third-greatest improvement over its previous year’s numbers, shedding 28 PP100.
Another German brand finds its way onto the list (and it won’t be the last, either). Volkswagen is another brand that posted a healthy improvement: last year it didn’t even crack the top 10, and yet in 2020 its PP100 score of 116 is good for a solid sixth place finish.
Toyota dropped for the 2020 study, both in its score—113, a PP100 increase of five—and its placement—from joint-second to fifth.
Porsche has seemingly cracked the dependability code for sporty cars. The enthusiast-oriented brand posted a PP100 of 108 last year, and an even 100 the year before. For 2020 it splits the difference, with a solid 104 rating. Yet just like Toyota, it drops from the joint silver straight off the podium. That’s a sign of just how tight the competition has become up top.
Things no journalist expects to write: Buick narrowly beats Porsche.
But beat the Germans Buick has, at least in this year’s J.D. Power study, thanks to a PP100 rating of 103. With a lineup built on proven mechanicals, Buick took top honors not just for GM but out of all mainstream manufacturers.
Wait, what? An eight-year reign has come to an end, as Lexus doesn’t top this year’s study. The brand hasn’t changed: its score of 100 is one of the best averages ever, while the Lexus ES‘ 52 PP100 score is the lowest J.D. Power has ever recorded in 31 years. But it wasn’t enough to stop a newcomer…
The Koreans have out-Lexused Lexus. Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury spin-off, scored a super-low 89 PP100 this year, putting it 11 points ahead—the biggest gap on this list. Genesis already dominated the 2019 Initial Quality report, but this was the first year it was eligible for the Dependability Study. After all, it only launched in 2017.
That does put a slight asterisk on the brand’s result here: it had but two models at the time. But a win’s a win, and the lineup has since swelled to include the G70 sport sedan—our 2019 Car of the Year—and will add the brand’s first SUV, the GV80, later this year.
Check out the full list below: