Car quality is getting worse, JD Power finds

New-vehicle quality improved at 12 of 33 brands ranked in the study: Dodge, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Maserati, Jaguar, Subaru, Jeep, Mitsubishi, Audi, Chrysler and Volvo.

“It’s not one thing that’s detrimental in the industry,” said Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at JD Power. “There’s just a lot of little things going wrong, and it’s adding up to big problems for customers.”

The number of problems tracked per 100 vehicles rose 6.5 percent from 2022 to 2023, following an 11 percent rise from 2021 to 2022, Hanley said. Before then, the largest increase in problems in a given year was 3 percent, excluding years when the study was redesigned.

“I don’t see this changing anytime soon,” Hanley said. “With what they’re doing and how they’re handling these types of situations, we’re still going down a very bumpy path.”

Dodge rose from second place to No. 1 with 140 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Ram with 141. Ram ranked 18th in 2022. Alfa Romeo improved to No. 3, with 143 problems per 100 vehicles, 68 fewer than a year ago; it also topped the rankings of premium brands.

Maserati was the most-improved brand, with 182 problems per 100 vehicles, 73 fewer than a year earlier.

Stellantis made significant gains, in part, because many vehicles carried over from the previous model year were largely unchanged, which tends to produce fewer problems than new launches and allows for improvement of existing features, Hanley said. Some of the automaker’s brands posted double-digit improvements with audio and safety systems.

“The work they put in definitely has brought them to the top of the rank chart, and they earn where they’re at,” he said.

Buick and Chevrolet rounded out the top five, while GMC and Cadillac finished among the top 10. The General Motors brands also had a lot of vehicles carry over from the previous model year, Hanley said.

“This is the third time in four years we’ve had the highest initial quality among all automakers, and that sort of consistency shows a customer-first culture,” Juan Carlos Jimenez, vice president of quality for GM North America, said in a statement. “It also says a lot about the efforts of the entire GM team to design, build, sell and service a diverse selection of gas and electric vehicles.”

Ford Motor Co.’s brands had the largest year-over-year decline in initial quality, led by Lincoln with 208 problems per 100 vehicles, 41 more than last year. Ford had 201 problems per 100 vehicles, up to 34, according to JD Power. Both brands had late vehicle launches, including the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair compact crossovers, which missed the survey window and affected the sales mix studied, Hanley said. The Escape and Corsair generally have less technology and content, which could mean fewer quality issues, he said.

“We’re committed to delivering quality experiences that customers expect and deserve from us, and we will not rest until we do just that,” Ford said in a prepared statement Thursday.

“While 2023 Lincoln Corsair, Ford Escape and Ford Super Duty were not included in this year’s study, we’re confident we’re making progress to improve quality in newer models. Four models were in the top three of their segments including Bronco Sport, Maverick, Nautilus and Ranger Customer feedback from sources like JD Power and our own internal measures are helping us pinpoint where to improve on the way to achieving best-in-class quality performance in high-volume segments and being among the leaders in all segments by 2025.”

Toyota fell eight spots to No. 22, dropping below the industry average at 194 problems per 100 vehicles. Hanley said Toyota introduced a new audio system last year on the Tundra full-size pickup and has since added it to other vehicles.

New technologies “tend to become more problematic,” Hanley said. He said Toyota “did fix a bunch of the problems” on the Tundra this year, so scores related to the truck have improved.

“But they got those issues on the new models that they rolled it out to,” he added. “You try to introduce new technologies to update your cars, and it’s hard to get right on the first pass.”

A spokesman for Toyota said the Japanese automaker was “still studying” the results and didn’t have a comment at this time.