Ram Top Auto Brand in J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study

Chris Teague | Aug 31, 2021

J.D. Power released the results of its 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS) today, finding that new-vehicle quality has improved two percent overall from 2020. While a positive for the industry, the slight improvement is a decrease in the rates found in previous years, which average three percent over the last decade. Technology and infotainment systems are the primary areas slowing improvement in initial quality and remain the most significant problem areas for new-vehicle owners.

2021 Ram 1500 Big Horn Silver Front Quarter View

"Owners are caught in the middle when vehicle and phone technologies don't properly connect," said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. He continued to say that "with more vehicles being fitted with the wireless technology owners want, the study reveals an increase in connectivity problems between smartphones and vehicles, leaving many owners unhappy."

J.D. Power measures initial quality by the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) owners experience within the first 90 days of ownership. A lower score indicates fewer problems and higher quality. The industry average for 2021 is 162 PP100, an improvement of 4 PP100 from 2020. Overall, 20 of 32 brands improve their quality scores from the previous year.

Key findings from J.D. Power's 2021 IQS include:

  • Buyers still have trouble connecting with infotainment features. J.D. Power finds that, overall, one in four problems cited by new owners relates to their vehicles' infotainment system. What's more, six of the top ten issues industry-wide are infotainment-related.
  • Smartphone connectivity is the number-one issue. Survey data shows that, for the first time since 2011, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity have overtaken voice recognition as the top complaint. Owners want wireless connectivity, but the shift has led to all sorts of technical issues between automakers and smartphone manufacturers.
  • Buyers find more problems with premium brands than with mass-market brands—the more complex the technology, the more problems buyers experience. Lexus and Genesis are the exceptions to this rule.
  • Among all individual models in the study, the Nissan Maxima stands out, earning the best score of 85 PP100.
  • Tesla improves to 231 PP100, which is a 19-point improvement from 2020. J.D. Power does not give the brand an official score because it does not meet the ranking criteria. Tesla does not allow J.D. Power to survey its owners in 15 states, which the survey requires, but data was gathered from owners in 35 other states.

For the first time since the study's inception, Ram is the highest-ranked brand in overall initial quality. Ram's score of 128 PP100 lands it at the top, followed by Dodge at 139 PP100, and a tie between Lexus and Mitsubishi at 144 PP100. Nissan rounds out the top-scoring group with 146 PP100. Hyundai Motor Group is the parent corporation to receive the most model-level awards with seven, followed by Toyota Motor Corporation with five and BMW AG with four.

The IQS also looks at the manufacturing facilities that produce vehicles with the fewest defects or malfunctions. Toyota Motor Corporation's Motomachi 2 plant in Japan, which builds the Lexus LC, receives the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles with the fewest defects. Two plants receive the Gold Plant Award:

  • Nissan Motor's Smyrna 1 plant in Tennessee, which builds the Nissan Murano, receives the award for the Americas region
  • BMW Group's Dingolfing 2 plant in Germany, which produces the 7 Series and the 8 Series, receives the award for the Europe/Africa region

The J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study analyzes responses from 110,827 buyers and lessees of new 2021 model-year vehicles. Study participants are asked 223 questions across nine categories that include infotainment, features, interior, powertrain, and more.

J.D. Power is the source of information for this article. It was accurate on August 31, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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