The pandemic — and subsequent shortages of key parts like semiconductors — have been hard on the auto industry, repeatedly disrupting production and leaving dealers struggling with a lack of inventory.
Auto buyers have been hard hit, as well, prices soaring for new vehicles — when shoppers can find them. But the new J.D. Power Initial Quality Study also reveals consumers have seen a “notable” decline in the quality of the vehicles they’re purchasing, something resulting from the disruptions in vehicle production.
“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,” said David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “In general, initial quality has shown steady improvement throughout the history of this study, so the decline this year is disappointing — yet understandable.”
GM takes the lead
The impact on quality has affected manufacturers across the industry — with a handful of standout exceptions, according to Power. General Motors “bucks the trend with an improvement in initial quality that lands it in the highest rank position among automotive corporations,” the research firm said in a summary of the 2022 IQS results.
For the first time ever, a GM brand topped the study, which measures the number of “problems” owners report during the first 90 days of ownership. Buick landed in the top spot with a reported 139 “problems per 100 vehicles,” or PP100 in Power-speak. Chevrolet landed in the number three spot with 147 problems. The Cadillac and GMC brands also came in well above the industry average of 180 PP100.
(The industry, on the whole, experienced an 11% increase in reported problems, the study found.)
“Quality is an enterprise effort over the years at GM that involves large efforts to design engineer and produce our products,” GM President Mark Reuss told TheDetroitBureau.com “The supply base, and the relationships we have, are to be thanked for the focus on our customers, as well.”
Power officials pointed to a series of problems. All-new vehicles suffered from a significant increase in issues, said Amodeo, adding that, “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.”
In general, issues with technology — such as voice control and infotainment displays — are now far more common than mechanical issues like faulty transmissions or misfit body panels. Infotainment systems alone generated an average 45 problems per 100 vehicles, the study revealed.
Battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, meanwhile, generated more problems than conventional models. Vehicles with internal combustion engines had an average 173 PP100, PHEVs jumping to 239. BEVs averaged 240 problems.
Who’s hot — and who’s not
Detroit automakers, on the whole, showed up strong this year. Ford rounded out the top 10 list, Lincoln coming in 11th. However, the Euro-American Stellantis had a mixed bag of results. Dodge was second on the IQS brand list. (See chart, below, for details on how each brand scored.) But Ram, Jeep and Alfa Romeo came in below average, and Chrysler was the lowest-ranked among the 33 brands for which full data is available.
Power included the new Polestar for the first time — but due to limited data it was included as something of an afterthought. Officials at the EV brand probably should be grateful because Polestar would have been at the absolute bottom of the list with a report 328 problems per 100, compared with 265 for Chrysler.
As for Tesla, it also rated a sidebar as it does not provide access to owners in a number of states. Still, the EV market leader has suffered from endemic quality problems and that was reflected by its partial score of 226 PP100. That would have positioned it in a tie with Mitsubishi as the sixth-lowest-scoring brand in the 2022 Power IQS.
A mixed bag for South Koreans and Japanese
The results among imports were also a mixed bag. With the South Koreans, Genesis and Kia ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, though Hyundai came in just below the industry average. Genesis was the highest-ranked luxury brand in the 2022 IQS, with a score of 156 PP100.
Lexus was sixth and Toyota 14th. Nissan and Mazda also came in just above industry average. But Acura, Honda, Subaru and Infiniti, as well as Mitsubishi, all fell below that waterline.
Europeans fared especially poorly, BMW the only brand in the top 10, with Mini squeaking in above average. Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Alfa, Volkswagen, Audi, Maserati and Volvo fell below average. The plunge was particularly notable for Porsche which has traditionally been one of the highest-ranked automakers. It suffered a reported 200 problems per 100 this year, falling from the top 10 to 10th from the bottom.
In terms of individual models, the Chevrolet Corvette topped the chart. The four GM brands collectively took nine awards in individual categories. That included not only the Corvette but the Cadillac Escalade and Buick Encore. BMW captured five segment awards, Hyundai Motor Group three, Ford and Toyota two each.
The Initial Quality Study is now in its 36th year. The results were based on responses from 84,165 motorists who either purchased or leased a 2022 model-year vehicle.