Detroit carmakers have best showing ever in JD Power Initial Quality study

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Dodge and Kia tied for the highest ranking in new-car quality among all car brands in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study, while Chevrolet ranked No. 2 and Ram was No. 3.

It was the first time a domestic brand topped the scorecard, and was the best ever overall showing for Detroit's automakers, who had seven brands that performed better than the overall industry's average score, which is based on the number of problems reported by new-car owners per 100 vehicles. 

Dodge tied with Kia for top overall brand, and the Durango was No. 2 pick for upper midsize SUV.

It also marked the first time the rankings included Tesla, although the Silicon Valley automaker's rankings were considered unofficial because it did not grant permission for J.D. Power to interview Tesla owners in 15 states where it would have been required. Based on interviews with new Tesla owners in 35 states, Tesla received a score of 250 problems reported by new car owners per 100 vehicles, which put it last among 32 automakers. 

Among U.S. brands, Buick and GMC at No. 7 and 8. Jeep clocked in at No. 11, while Cadillac ranked 14th. Ford ranked 16th and Lincoln came in 21st, while Chrysler placed 26th. 

The annual study measures the number of problems experienced during the first 90 days of ownership of 2020 vehicles. The lower the score, the better the performance in the eyes of new car owners. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is the parent company for No. 1 Dodge. Mark Champine, head of quality for FCA-North America, said the automaker has been focused on making improvements to production and competent part selection processes for years with an eye toward improved performance in the eyes of customers. 

"One thing I can say is you don't make improvements without some very specific effort," he said. "We've been working on improvements for a long time... A lot of effort goes into making our products more robust and our processes more repeatable." 

Kia tied for the top brand with Dodge, and the Forte was the top-ranked compact car.

Infotainment problems continue to be the most problematic category for new car owners, with almost a quarter of all problems cited by new-vehicle owners related to infotainment. Technology-related complaints included problems with built-in voice recognition; Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity; touchscreens; built-in navigation systems; and Bluetooth connectivity, J.D. Power said.

Hyundai Motor Group received seven awards for individual models, tops among parent corporations. Hyundai winners included the Genesis G70; Hyundai Tucson; Hyundai Veloster; Kia Forte; Kia Sedona; Kia Sorento; and Kia Soul. 

Chevrolet Sonic

Hyundai was followed by General Motors with six awards: the Cadillac CT5; Cadillac CT6; Cadillac Escalade; Cadillac XT4; Chevrolet Malibu; and Chevrolet Sonic were all tops in class. 

Ford Motor Co. received three awards for individual models. Ford Mustang; Ford Ranger; and Ford Super Duty topped their respective segments.

The Lincoln Navigator won for large premium SUV.

Among the top brands, Dodge and Kia drivers reported 136 problems per 100 vehicles, while Chevrolet  and Ram drivers experienced 141 problems and Hyundai drivers reported 74 problems.  Ford drivers reported 174 problems per 100 cars.

Rebecca Lindland, founder and consultant at, an auto-industry and car review website, said the top ranking is "fantastic news for Dodge, a brand known more for making American muscle cars like the Challenger and Charger and thundering SRT models than anything else.

"Ranking first in IQS shows Dodge hasn’t ignored quality even as its upped the horsepower quotient," she said. "And finishing first in IQS reflects significant owner satisfaction, a terrific bragging point for Dodge. J.D. Power still has a lot of cache, especially amongst Baby Boomers who value rankings. Younger consumers may not be as influenced by these awards, but they certainly are still valuable."

Lindland added that she is "hoping that this is a turn of events for the domestics that will finally sort of give them credit for all the work that they've done in improving their quality. 

"The challenge really is baby boomers haven't really given domestics credit for all the work they've done on both quality and craftsmanship when it comes to the quality of their vehicles," she said. "So maybe there's a trickle-down affect and this award will emphasize that domestic brands really can play with the imports side-by-side when it comes to initial quality study."

JD Power winners

Best overall score

Chevrolet Sonic

Small car (top 3)

Highest ranked: Chevrolet Sonic

Hyundai Accent

Kia Rio

Small premium car

Highest ranked: Audi A3

Acura ILX (tie)

BMW 2 Series (tie)

Compact car

Highest ranked: Kia Forte

Hyundai Elantra

Volkswagen Jetta

Compact sporty car

Highest ranked: Hyundai Veloster (tie)

Mini Cooper (tie)

Compact premium car

Highest ranked: Genesis G70

Lexus IS (tie)

Mercedes-Benz C-Class (tie)

Midsize premium SUV

Highest ranked: Lexus GX

Lincoln Nautilus

Lexus RX

Upper midsize SUV

Highest ranked: Kia Sorento

Dodge Durango

Toyota Highlander

Upper midsize premium SUV

Highest ranked: BMW X6


Audi Q8

Large SUV

Highest ranked: Nissan Armada

Chevrolet Tahoe

Toyota Sequoia

Large premium SUV

Highest ranked: Cadillac Escalade

Lincoln Navigator