The plunge in quality is tied to lingering industry issues from COVID, according to analysts. However, nine of the 33 OEM brands improved in quality from last year.  -  Photo: Canva

The plunge in quality is tied to lingering industry issues from COVID, according to analysts. However, nine of the 33 OEM brands improved in quality from last year.

Photo: Canva

It’s not great news for the auto industry coming out of the most recent study from J.D. Power. Key findings from the consumer insights company’s 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), released on June 28, reveal record-high vehicle quality problems, paired with disappointing EV performance.

Specifically, owners of BEVs and PHEVs cite more problems with their vehicles than do owners of vehicles with internal combustion engines. ICE vehicles average 175 PP100 (problems per 100 vehicles), while PHEVs average 239 PP100 and BEVs — excluding Tesla models — average 240 PP100. J.D. Power noted that Tesla models average 226 PP100 and are shown separate from the BEV average because the predominance of Tesla vehicles could obscure the performance of the legacy automakers that have recently introduced BEVs.

The larger vehicle quality issues are largely credited to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which initial vehicle quality notably declined due to disruptions from supply chain issues, record-high vehicle prices, and workforce shortages. J.D Power said that in the study’s 36-year history, these problems reflect a record high.

Overall, compared with 2021 results, the industry experienced an 11% increase in problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), which is 18 PP100 worse than last year, resulting in an industry average of 180 PP100. 

Among vehicle brands, GM came out on top, demonstrating an improvement in initial quality that lands it in the highest rank position among automotive corporations. Buick's quality also improves 17 PP100 year over year, vaulting it to ranking highest overall in 2022 from 12th place in 2021, while Genesis ranks highest among premium brands. Just nine of 33 ranked brands improved in vehicle quality year over year, according to J.D. Power.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Deterioration goes beyond launch vehicles: Both new and continuing models increased in problems this year, though all-new models worsened the most (23 PP100). The initial quality gap between all-new and continuing models widens this year to 25 PP100 from 20 PP100 in 2021. The 2022 study finds four times as many new models performing worse than their segment averages compared with those that perform better than their segment averages.
  • Mass market vehicles experience fewer problems than premium vehicles: Mass market brands average 175 PP100, which is 21 PP100 fewer than for premium brands (196 PP100). Premium brand buyers typically purchase more technology in their vehicles, and the added complexity of that tech increases the likelihood of problems, the study said. Given the challenging task of launching new vehicles in the current environment, mass market carryover vehicles are most likely to achieve high-ranking initial quality.
  • Infotainment systems remain the most problematic: The infotainment category proves to be the most problematic area, with an average of 45.0 PP100, which is 19.5 PP100 more problems than the next-highest category. Six of the top 10 problem areas in the study are infotainment-related.
  • Driving assistance issues grow: Problems with advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) declined in 2021 but have increased in 2022. The most problematic ADAS system is lane departure warning/lane-keeping assistance with 4.1 PP100.
  • Tesla included for the first time: Tesla Motors is included in the industry calculation for the first time, with a score of 226 PP100. However, because Tesla does not allow J.D. Power access to owner information in the states where that permission is required by law, Tesla vehicles remain ineligible for awards.
Buick was the highest-ranking brand in overall initial quality, followed by Dodge and Chevrolet. The parent corporation receiving the most model-level awards was General Motors.  -  Source: J.D. Power

Buick was the highest-ranking brand in overall initial quality, followed by Dodge and Chevrolet. The parent corporation receiving the most model-level awards was General Motors.

Source: J.D. Power

“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. 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."

“Supply chain disruption, especially the shortage of microchips, has caused automakers to seek alternative solutions to get new vehicles into purchasers’ and lessees’ hands,” Amodeo continued. “In some cases, new vehicles are being shipped without some features installed. Communication with them about the changes in feature availability, as well as when such features will be reinstated, is critical to their satisfaction.”

The U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from 84,165 purchasers and lessees of new 2022-MY vehicles who were surveyed early in the ownership period. The study is based on a 223-question battery organized into nine vehicle categories: infotainment; features, controls, and displays; exterior; driving assistance; interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate. The study is designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and to drive product improvement. The study was fielded from February through May 2022.

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