Consumers are reporting that overall vehicle dependability is improving, despite ongoing continued problems with technology, according to J.D. Power.
Lexus ranks highest among all brands, while Kia ranks highest among mass market brands for a third consecutive year.
Lexus ranks highest overall in vehicle dependability, with a score of 133 problems per 100 vehicles. Other premium brands ranking high for vehicle dependability include Genesis (144), Cadillac (173) and BMW (184).
Kia (152 problems per 100 vehicles) ranks highest in the mass-market segment for a third consecutive year, followed by Buick (159), Chevrolet (162), Mitsubishi (167) and Toyota (168).
The top three brands with the greatest improvement in the number of problems are Ram, Volvo and Nissan.
The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study reports an industry average of 186 problems per 100 vehicles, an improvement of 6 problems per 100 vehicles from 2022. A lower score indicates higher performance.
The study examines how 2020 model-year vehicles are performing in terms of quality, component replacement and appeal.
Results are based on responses from 30,062 original owners of 2020 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded from August through November 2022.
Leading the industry’s improvement for fewer problems are mass market brands with 182 problems per 100 vehicles, eight fewer than a year ago, and 23 problems per 100 vehicles lower than for premium brands (205 problems per 100 vehicles).
The gap between the two segments is at its widest since the study launched 34 years ago and mirrors a trend that began in 2016.
A driving force for the dependability disparity between the two segments is new technology introduced in vehicles. Premium brands usually have more technology, which increases complexity and the inherent likelihood of additional problems, says Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at J.D. Power.
“It is typical in the automotive industry to roll out concepts and features by putting them in premium vehicles first,” Hanley says in a release.
The 3-year-old vehicles measured in this year’s study were first examined in the 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study. Six of the 10 highest-ranked brands in the 2020 IQS are among the 10 highest-ranked brands in this year’s Vehicle Dependability Study.
Some of the most deteriorated areas from 90 days to three years of ownership are starter battery failures, outdated maps, Android Auto/Apple Car Play and voice recognition problems. The increase in problems in the technology area shows the importance that over-the-air updates can play in correcting issues with audio systems and keeping the information in them up to date.
The study was redesigned in 2022 to include features and technology that are available in current vehicles. It now covers 184 specific problem areas across nine major vehicle categories: climate, driving assistance, driving experience, exterior, features/controls/displays, infotainment, interior, powertrain and seats.
The infotainment category continues to be the most problematic with an average of 49.9 problems per 100 vehicles, almost twice as many problems as the next-highest category, which is exterior.
Owners’ relationships with their vehicles go beyond wear and tear on parts; it also includes their expectations of how up-to-date the technology remains over time.
For example, satisfaction scores for vehicle condition improve when vehicles receive over-the-air software updates to infotainment systems that are perceived to not be meeting today’s standards.