2022 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study:Technology Issues Heavily Impact New-Vehicle Quality

Jeff Youngs | Jun 28, 2022

The results of the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS) are in, and it appears that the auto industry has contracted a troublesome quality virus. The culprit? A toxic cocktail of computer microchip shortages, state-of-the-art advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), worsening launch-vehicle quality, and an industry shift toward hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and all-electric vehicles (EVs).

Pandemic-Related Issues Contribute to Overall Decline in Quality - Find the best car deals!

According to the latest edition of J.D. Power’s benchmark new-vehicle quality study, supply chain issues, record-high vehicle prices, and personnel dislocations—all part of the continuing fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic—contributed to new-vehicle quality dipping to a record low in 2022. The challenges have forced the industry to respond with creative solutions, including focusing on high-dollar trim levels and building vehicles that are missing components that require semiconductors to operate.

“Supply chain disruption, especially the shortage of microchips, has caused automakers to seek alternative solutions to get new vehicles into purchasers’ and lessees’ hands,” said David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “In some cases, new vehicles are being shipped without some features installed.”

According to J.D. Power research, the auto industry experienced an 11-percent year-over-year decrease in new-vehicle quality as measured by problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), in which a lower score reflects higher quality. The 2022 IQS shows an increase from 162 PP100 for the industry in 2021 to 180 PP100 this year—a significant increase of 18 PP100. While it clearly wasn’t a banner year for new-car quality, it could have been worse.

“Given the many challenges automakers and their dealers had to face in the past year, it’s somewhat surprising that initial quality didn’t fall even more dramatically,” Amodeo said. "In general, initial quality has shown steady improvement throughout the history of this study, so the decline this year is disappointing—yet understandable. 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."

Mass-Market Vehicles Outperform Premium Vehicles in Initial Quality - Find the best car deals!

2022 Buick Enclave Avenir Front Quarter View

Over the course of the first three decades of the Initial Quality Study, first conducted in 1986, premium-brand vehicles typically exhibited higher initial quality than their mass-market counterparts. However, over the last half-dozen years or so, the increased technology that luxury-brand automakers are engineering into their new vehicles has led to added complexity and, thus, more quality problems.

In the 2022 IQS, mass-market vehicles (175 PP100) have a clear advantage over premium vehicles (196 PP100)—a significant difference of 21 PP100. This is primarily due to the fact that mass-market vehicles contain less technology. However, some luxury automakers have been able to avoid that pitfall.

“Owners of premium-brand vehicles experience more problems than mass market vehicle owners, continuing a trend that started in 2016,” Amodeo said. “But some brands, notably Genesis and Lexus, have largely been able to avoid that issue.” Still, according to the study, mass-market carryover models are most likely to exhibit the highest initial quality.

Problems with Infotainment Systems Continue to Plague New-Vehicle Quality - Find the best car deals!

Infotainment System

According to the 2022 IQS, six of the top 10 problems owners experience with their new cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans during the first 90 days of ownership relate to the vehicle’s infotainment system. Indeed, the infotainment category averages 45.0 PP100, which is a whopping 19.5 PP100 more than the next-highest category.

Specifically, owners cite these problems with their infotainment system, listed in order of most to least problematic:

  • Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity (5.8 PP100)
  • Built-in voice recognition (4.0 PP100)
  • Difficulties with touchscreens/display screens (3.5 PP100)
  • Built-in Bluetooth systems (3.4 PP100)
  • Not enough power plugs/USB ports (2.9 PP100)
  • Inconsistent audio volume (2.7 PP100)

Battery-electric and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles More Problematic - Find the best car deals!

The onset of the EV age, while beneficial to the environment, is proving challenging to automakers in terms of new-vehicle quality. While it is true that EV powertrains are less complex than their internal-combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, that relative simplicity doesn’t necessarily translate into better quality.

Indeed, according to the 2022 IQS, owners of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and PHEVs cite more problems with their vehicles than do owners of ICE vehicles. While ICE vehicles average 173 PP100, PHEVs average a significantly worse 239 PP100, and BEVs (not including Tesla) average 240 PP100. (Tesla models average 226 PP100 and are shown separate from the BEV average because the predominance of Tesla vehicles could obscure the performance of the legacy automakers that have recently introduced BEVs.)

How J.D. Power Calculates Vehicle Quality Ratings - Find the best car deals!

In conducting its research on new-vehicle quality, J.D. Power surveys tens of thousands of verified original owners of new, 2022 model-year vehicles after 90 days of ownership. The IQS collects owner feedback across nine major categories, including:

  • Infotainment technology
  • Features, controls, and displays
  • Exterior condition
  • Driving-assistance technology
  • Interior condition
  • Powertrain
  • Seats
  • Driving experience
  • Climate system

Based on this Voice of the Customer data, J.D. Power determines the makes and models that are most and least troublesome to their owners.

Top-rated Makes and Models for Initial Quality - Find the best car deals!

2022 Genesis G80 Cavendish Red Front Quarter View 1

In a surprising twist, three domestic mass-market nameplates sit atop the 2022 IQS brand rankings. According to the study, two General Motors (GM) brands and one Stellantis brand lead the quality pack this year. Buick, with a score of 139 PP100, is the highest-ranking brand in overall initial quality. Dodge (143 PP100) ranks second and Chevrolet (147 PP100) ranks third. Among premium brands, Genesis (156 PP100) ranks highest (fourth overall among all brands), followed by Lexus (157 PP100) and Cadillac (163 PP100). In all, just nine of 33 ranked brands improved in vehicle quality year over year.

According to the 2022 IQS, the following mass-market brands provide the highest levels of initial quality:

  • Buick (139 PP100)
  • Dodge (143 PP100)
  • Chevrolet (147 PP100)
  • Kia (156 PP100)
  • GMC (162 PP100)

In the premium category, these are the highest-ranked brands:

  • Genesis (156 PP100)
  • Lexus (157 PP100)
  • Cadillac (163 PP100)
  • BMW (165 PP100)
  • Mercedes-Benz (189 PP100)

Among automakers, GM receives the most model-level awards with nine, followed by BMW AG (five); Hyundai Motor Group (three); Ford Motor Company (two); and Toyota Motor Corporation (two). Among brands, Chevrolet receives the most segment awards (six), followed by BMW (four).

According to the 2022 IQS, these are the highest-ranked mass-market cars and minivans:

  • Small Car—Hyundai Accent
  • Compact Car—Kia Forte
  • Compact Sporty Car—Mini Cooper
  • Midsize Car—Chevrolet Malibu
  • Minivan—Honda Odyssey

Following are the top-rated 2022 mass-market SUVs and pickup trucks:

  • Small SUV—Buick Encore GX
  • Compact SUV—Chevrolet Equinox
  • Midsize SUV—Nissan Murano
  • Upper Midsize SUV—Toyota 4Runner
  • Large SUV—Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Midsize Pickup—Ford Ranger
  • Large Light Duty Pickup—Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  • Large Heavy Duty Pickup—Chevrolet Silverado HD

These are the highest-rated premium-brand models for initial quality:

  • Small Premium Car—BMW 2 Series
  • Compact Premium Car—Lexus IS
  • Premium Sporty Car—Chevrolet Corvette
  • Upper Midsize Premium Car—Genesis G80
  • Large Premium Car—BMW 7 Series
  • Small Premium SUV—BMW X1
  • Compact Premium SUV—BMW X3
  • Midsize Premium SUV—Lincoln Nautilus
  • Upper Midsize Premium SUV—Cadillac XT6
  • Large Premium SUV—Cadillac Escalade

The model with the highest overall initial quality (lowest overall PP100 score) in the 2022 IQS is the Chevrolet Corvette.

Summary - Find the best car deals!

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, initial vehicle quality notably declined in 2022. The disruptions caused by the pandemic contributed to vehicle problems reaching a record high in the 36-year history of the benchmark J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. Combined with record-high gas prices, historically high inflation, rising interest rates, and tight new- and used-vehicle inventory, it’s evident that the current auto market is challenging for both automakers and consumers alike.

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