JD Power 2021 Initial Quality Study

by Chris Chase

Ram, Dodge, and Lexus are this year’s top-ranked brands for initial quality, according to J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study (IQS), which was pubished August 31. As well, seven models from the Hyundai Motor Group’s Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis brands were rated best in their vehicle segments, the most for any car manufacturer.

Every year, J.D. Power publishes the IQS as a snapshot of how happy new-vehicle buyers are with their purchases after 90 days of ownership. The auto industry research firm measures initial quality in terms of the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles (PP100).

For 2021, the average brand ranking is 162 PP100, an improvement from 2020’s 166, with 22 brands improving their scores this year. Ram is 2021’s top brand with a score of 128 PP100, followed by Dodge at 139 PP100 and Lexus at 144 PP100.

How did J.D. Power compile the 2021 Initial Quality Survey?

For the 35th annual IQS, J.D. Power consulted nearly 111,000 buyers of 2021 model vehicles between February and July of this year to ask them 223 questions about their early experiences with their cars and trucks. Those questions are split into nine categories: infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance; interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate.

Top-ranked cars

Just seven automakers and 11 brands can boast segment-best models this year. As mentioned up top, seven Hyundai Motor Group models ranked best in their segments: the Kia Forte, Sedona, Soul, Sportage and Telluride; the Genesis G80 luxury sedan; and the Hyundai Accent subcompact car. Hyundai no longer sells the Accent in Canada, but it’s still available in the U.S. Another Hyundai Motor Group asterisk is that the Kia Sedona minivan was replaced by the all-new Carnival after this year’s survey was conducted.

Toyota Motor Corporation’s segment winners are the Toyota Sequoia full-size SUV and Tundra full-size pickup truck, along with the upscale Lexus RC coupe and RX and UX crossover models.

Four BMW models were named best in class: the 2 Series compact coupe, the X4 compact crossover, the X6 mid-size SUV, and the X7 full-size SUV.

Nissan claimed three segment bests for its Altima and Maxima sedans and Murano mid-size SUV. The Maxima also earned this year’s best overall score of 85 PP100.

Finally, General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) each scored two best-in-class cars. GM’s winners are the Chevrolet Corvette sports car and Cadillac CT5 luxury sedan. Stellantis’s top models are the Jeep Gladiator mid-size pickup truck and Ram 2500/3500 heavy duty truck.

Infotainment systems, smartphone connectivity are this year’s most common problems

This year, a quarter of all initial quality complaints fell into the infotainment category, and trouble with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is the most common individual complaint. J.D. Power says these systems are more problematic this year than in previous surveys, and attributes that to the expanded availability of wireless versions of the Apple and Android device integration platforms.

Tesla quality improves slightly

Last year was the first time J.D. Power included Tesla in its IQS rankings. This year, the electric car company scored 231 PP100, an improvement of 19 PP100 since the 2020 survey. Tesla is included on an unofficial basis, however, because the company doesn’t let J.D. Power survey owners in every U.S. state.

Tesla is one of eight brands with rankings of at least 200 problems per 100 cars. The others are Acura and Land Rover (both with 200 PP100), Alfa Romeo (204 PP100), Volvo (210 PP100), Volkswagen (213 PP100), Audi (240 PP100), and Chrysler (251 PP100).

Automakers that scored near this year’s average include Chevrolet and Mini (151 PP100 each), Buick (156 PP100), Toyota (157 PP100), Ford (162 PP100), Lincoln and Porsche (163 PP100 each), GMC and Honda (164 PP100), Jaguar (165 PP100), BMW (166 PP100), and Infiniti (170 PP100).

Two Ontario factories ranked among the world’s best

J.D. Power also recognized two Ontario car manufacturing plants for quality vehicle assembly. Toyota’s Cambridge South plant, which produces the Lexus RX SUV, is second in North America, and the Honda Alliston 2 factory that builds the CR-V crossover is third-best on the continent.