Buick tops J.D. Power Initial Quality Study as vehicle problems rise

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

General Motors Co.'s Buick brand topped J.D. Power's 2022 Initial Quality Study in a year in which pandemic-related disruptions caused overall results to decline.

That's according to data released Tuesday by the consumer insights, advisory services and data analytics firm. Initial vehicle quality "notably declined" during the pandemic, with factors such as supply-chain issues contributing to vehicle problems reaching a record high in the 36-year history of the study. 

The automotive industry saw an 11% increase in problems per 100 vehicles, to 180 problems compared to 162 problems in 2021 (lower scores mean fewer problems reported). And just nine of 33 brands in the ranking improved in vehicle quality from last year.

Still, GM had a strong showing, landing in the highest position among auto companies. Among models, Buick's quality improved 17 problems per 100 vehicles over last year, putting it at the top of the ranking after coming in 12th place last year. Hyundai Motor Co.'s Genesis ranked highest among premium brands and fourth overall. The Kia brand came in fifth.

The Ford brand came in 10th and Lincoln came in 11th, both above the industry average. Chrysler, a Stellantis brand, ranked last with 265 problems.

Last year, Stellantis NV led the ranking with its Ram brand coming in No. 1 followed by Dodge at No. 2.

“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,” David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "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 results are based on responses from 84,165 purchasers and lessees of new 2022 model-year vehicles who were surveyed early in the ownership period. Fielded from February through May, the study is based on responses to 223 questions organized into nine vehicle categories: infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance; interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate.

“Supply chain disruption, especially the shortage of microchips, has caused automakers to seek alternative solutions to get new vehicles into purchasers’ and lessees’ hands,” said Amodeo. “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 decline in initial quality comes as new vehicle prices are at all-time highs: Average transaction prices for new vehicles increased 13.5% year over year to $47,148 in May, according to data released this month by Kelley Blue Book, a Cox Automotive company.

After Buick, which had 139 problems per 100 vehicles, Stellantis NV's Dodge came in second with 143 problems. GM's Chevrolet brand came in third with 147 problems. The top three among premium brands were: Genesis, Lexus and Cadillac.

GM took home the most model-level awards (nine) of all parent companies included in the ranking. Next came BMW AG with five, Hyundai Motor Group with three, while Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. tied with two.

The GM models that ranked highest in their respective segments were the Buick Encore GX, Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac XT6, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Silverado HD and Chevrolet Tahoe.The Corvette was the highest-ranking model overall with 101 problems.

J.D. Power found that the increase in initial quality problems applied to both all-new and existing models, though all-new models declined the most. The initial quality gap between all-new and existing models widened to 25 problems per 100 vehicles.

And continuing a trend that J.D. Power traces to 2016, the study found that mass-market vehicles had fewer problems than premium cars, likely due to the added complexity of technology features in premium models. 

Of the categories J.D. Power surveyed owners on, infotainment systems continue to be the most problematic, with an average of 45 problems — 19.5 more problems than the next-highest category. Six of the top 10 problem areas identified in the study are infotainment-related, including Android Auto/Apple Car Play connectivity issues with 5.8 problems.

Another finding was that owners of battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles experience more problems than owners of internal combustion engine vehicles. And issues with advanced driving assistance systems grew, with lane departure warning/lane-keeping assistance scoring the worst among those features.

This year marked the first time that electric-vehicle maker Tesla, Inc. was included in the benchmark. The company, which is ineligible for awards because it does not allow J.D. Power to access owner information in states where that permission is legally required, scored 226 problems per 100 vehicles. 

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski