Jun 28, 2022 - Economy

Pandemic delivers setback to new vehicle quality, J.D. Power reports

A silver sports car sits on an elevated deck overlooking the earth below

The 2022 Chevrolet Corvette was named as the highest quality vehicle in the 2022 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. A version of the vehicle with an optional spoiler is seen here. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The pandemic has dealt a setback to vehicle quality, according to a study released Tuesday.

Driving the news: The number of problems in new vehicles reached a record high in the 36-year history of the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, a closely watched annual assessment of the performance of new cars and trucks.

Why it matters: It marks a challenge to the long-running assumption that vehicles only improve over time.

  • The number of problems per 100 vehicles rose 11% to 180 in the 2022 J.D. Power IQS survey.

What they found: J.D. Power attributed the reversal in quality to "supply chain issues, record-high vehicle prices and personnel dislocations." In some cases, automakers have shipped vehicles without certain features that people have come to expect.

  • The assessment is based on a 223-question survey of 84,165 buyers or lessees of 2022 model-year vehicles on areas like infotainment systems, powertrain performance and climate control.
  • Infotainment systems — namely the touch screens that have become ubiquitous in new cars — "remain the most problematic area," averaging 45 problems per 100 vehicles. The most common infotainment problems were connectivity troubles with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and hiccups with built-in voice recognition systems.
  • Electric vehicles were more problematic than gasoline cars, averaging 240 and 175 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively.

Yes, but: It doesn't mean 2022 vehicles are worse than cars from the late 1980s, when the study started. The defect standard and people's expectations have risen over time.

  • "In general, initial quality has shown steady improvement throughout the history of this study, so the decline this year is disappointing — yet understandable," David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
  • "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."

Of note: The top-five highest quality brands, in order, were Buick, Dodge, Chevrolet, Genesis and Kia. The five lowest quality brands were, beginning with the worst, Polestar, Chrysler, Volvo, Maserati and Audi.

The highest quality individual vehicle was the Chevrolet Corvette, also winner of the premium sporty car segment. Other segment winners:

  • Small car: Hyundai Accent
  • Small premium car: BMW 2 Series
  • Compact car: Kia Forte
  • Compact premium car: Lexus IS
  • Compact sporty car: Mini Cooper
  • Midsize car: Chevrolet Malibu
  • Upper midsize premium car: Genesis G80
  • Large premium car: BMW 7 Series
  • Small SUV: Buick Encore GX
  • Small premium SUV: BMW X1
  • Compact SUV: Chevrolet Equinox
  • Compact premium SUV: BMW X3
  • Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano
  • Midsize premium SUV: Lincoln Nautilus
  • Upper midsize SUV: Toyota 4Runner
  • Upper midsize premium SUV: Cadillac XT6
  • Large SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Large premium SUV: Cadillac Escalade
  • Minivan: Honda Odyssey
  • Midsize pickup: Ford Ranger
  • Large light-duty pickup: Chevrolet Silverado
  • Large heavy-duty pickup: Chevrolet Silverado HD

Editor's note: This report has been updated with data corrected in J.D. Power's initial report. Gasoline cars averaged 175 problems per 100 vehicles, not 173 as J.D. Power originally stated.

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