J.D. Power released the results of its annual Initial Quality Study this week, which ranks auto manufacturers based on the number of problems experienced by owners of new 2020 model-year vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership.
To rank the brands, J.D. Power gives each a score based on the number of reported problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). The lower the score, the higher the initial quality of the vehicle, and vice versa. A reported problem can be anything from buggy in-vehicle technology to engine trouble or paint problems.
It's worth pointing out that this study is not concrete proof of the quality of a manufacturer's product. Car ownership periods last a lot longer than 90 days, after all, so keep that in mind when reading through the rankings below.
Top 5 Best Automotive Brands For Initial Quality
Starting out our top five ranking is Hyundai's luxury brand, Genesis. The Korean automaker actually topped the list last year with just 63 reported problems per 100 vehicles, but fell to fifth in this year's ranking with a score of PP142. Being a premium brand, we're sure Genesis will be eager to push aside mainstream brands like Chevrolet, Kia, and Dodge in order to get back on top.
3. Ram (tie)
Ram is the second FCA brand in the top five, tied with Chevrolet at PP141. This is a major improvement in ranking from the 2019 study, but the brand had a superior score last year of PP103. Ram introduced updated new Heavy Duty trucks for the 2020 model year with an abundance of new technology, which could be behind the dip.
Chevrolet was the third-best brand for initial quality in this year's study with a score of PP141. The Chevrolet Sonic also had the best overall score for initial quality of any new vehicle, with Sonic owners reporting just 103 problems per 100 cars. This is an impressive performance for Chevy, as it has introduced a number of new or updated models recently, including the Blazer, updated Chevrolet Silverado and the eighth-generation Corvette.
1. Dodge (tie)
Fiat Chrysler and its various brands used to struggle in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. Even as recently as 2016 the FCA brands were ranking near the bottom of the list, but not any more. With just 136 problems reported per 100 vehicles on the road, Dodge is tied for having the best initial quality. This could be due to the fact that many of its products, which include the Challenger coupe, Charger sedan, and Journey crossover, have been in production for a long time, giving FCA plenty of time to iron out any kinks.
1. Kia (tie)
Tied with Dodge for initial quality is South Korean automaker Kia. This isn't much of a surprise, as Kia was also the top-ranked non-premium brand for initial quality last year, as well. That said, the industry as a whole has gotten worse for initial quality year-over-year and Kia is no exception. Kia owners had just 70 reported problems per 100 vehicles last year, but the brand had a score of PP136 this year.
Worst 5 Automotive Brands For Initial Quality
Mercedes-Benz customers pay a lot for their vehicles, but that doesn't translate into good initial quality, it would seem. Mercedes owners reported 202 problems per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership - a poor enough performance to place the brand in the bottom five.
Today's Volvos are safe and stylish vehicles that place an emphasis on efficiency, but initial quality isn't a strong suit for the brand. The Swedish automaker had a score of PP210 - a poor showing and quite a bit lower than the next worst brand in the list.
Yet another premium brand appears in the bottom five (are you beginning to see a trend yet?) in the way of German manufacturer Audi. The automaker's customers reported an average of 225 problems per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership - likely much to their dismay. This is a much worse showing than last year when Audi had a score of PP106 and finished toward the middle of the ranking.
2. Land Rover
Land Rover frequently finds itself near the bottom of the initial quality study rankings and this year is no different. The British brand's SUVs are undeniably nice to drive and a great status symbol, but owners seem to experience problems right off the bat. It had a score of PP228 this year, which surprisingly was only enough to place it second last in the list.
Technically, Tesla is not rank eligible for the Initial Quality Study, as the manufacturer does not grant the company permission to survey its owners in 15 states, as per its criteria. Based on the data J.D. Power is able to collect, though, Tesla is dead last with a sky-high score of PP250. J.D. Power does not say what kind of problems Tesla owners reported in the first 90 days of ownership, but we imagine there were a variety of issues experienced based on the large volume of complaints.