In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, initial vehicle quality notably declined, according to the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS).
The disruptions caused by the pandemic—supply chain issues, record-high vehicle prices and personnel dislocations—contributed to vehicle problems reaching a record high in the 36-year history of this benchmark study. Compared with 2021 results, the industry experienced an 11 per cent increase in problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), which is 18 PP100 worse than last year, resulting in an industry average of 180 PP100. A lower score reflects higher vehicle quality.
General Motors bucks the trend with an improvement in initial quality that lands it in the highest rank position among automotive corporations. Among brands, Buick’s quality 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.
“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.”
The U.S. Initial Quality Study, now in its 36th year, is based this year on responses from 84,165 purchasers and lessees of new 2022 model-year 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.
“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 said. “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.”
Following are key findings of the 2022 study:
- Deterioration goes beyond launch vehicles: Both all-new and continuing models increase in problems this year, though all-new models worsen 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. 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. “Owners of premium-brand vehicles experience more problems than mass market vehicle owners, continuing a trend that started in 2016,” Amodeo said. “But some brands, notably Genesis and Lexus, have largely been able to avoid that issue.”
- Infotainment systems remain the most problematic area:The infotainment category continues to be the most problematic, 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, including: Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity (5.8 PP100); built-in voice recognition (4.0 PP100); difficulties with touchscreens/display screens (3.5 PP100); built-in Bluetooth systems (3.4 PP100); not enough power plugs/USB ports (2.9 PP100); and inconsistent audio volume (2.7 PP100).
- Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) more problematic:Owners of BEVs and PHEVs cite more problems with their vehicles than do owners of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE). ICE vehicles average 175 PP100, PHEVs average 239 PP100 and BEVs—excluding Tesla models—average 240 PP100. (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.)
- 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 Motors officially 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 Motors 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.