Ram, Dodge, Lexus, Mitsubishi get top marks for new vehicle quality in JD Power study

2019 Ram 1500

Mac Hogan / CNBC

Ram trucks top JD Power’s ranking of new vehicles in terms of quality for the first time. Across the industry, the annual study showed that drivers complained the most about new high-tech features like the infotainment system.

Dodge landed in second place, with Lexus and Mitsubishi in third for new vehicle quality. Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand was the highest ranked luxury vehicle brand, followed by Hyundai’s Genesis. Both Ram and Dodge trucks are manufactured by Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler.

JD Power’s annual preliminary quality study is considered an important measure within the auto industry. The firm surveys thousands of new car owners and scores auto brands based on the number of reported problems per 100 vehicles within the first 90 days of ownership. Problems can range from sluggish smartphone connectivity to engine trouble and bad paint.

2019 Lexus LS 500h

Mac Hogan | CNBC

The average number of problems per 100 vehicles was 162, which is a 2% increase over the previous year. The Nissan Maxima had the best score of any single model in the study, recording 85 problems per 100 new vehicles.

The top problem reported by owners was related to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity, which got worse as automakers implemented new wireless connectivity for phone mirroring features. It was the first time since 2011 that voice recognition was not the top problem in the study.

Chrysler was the last among the laggards in quality, behind Audi and Tesla.

Tesla is not officially part of the study because it does not give J.D. Power access to customer data; Vehicle manufacturers’ permission is legally required in 15 states. However, researchers at JD Power were able to rank Teslas in their quality study starting last year, based on their unofficial scores on surveys of owners in other 35 states.

Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at JD Power, said Tesla owners reported problems that had more to do with the build quality, fit and finish of their vehicles rather than the technology inside them. Examples include body panel gaps, paint issues, wind noise, interior squeaks and rattles.

Sargent said only one battery electric vehicle, an electric version of the Mini Cooper, is above average on the list.

The problems typically reported by owners with battery-powered vehicles weren’t directly attributable to the fact that they were EVs, he said, meaning they had to replace their new electric vehicles’ batteries in the first 90 days of ownership. Or there was no problem with the electric motor.

“These vehicles, because they are usually being offered to people who are very tech savvy, they are packed with the latest features and they are not always good on any vehicle,” Sargent said. He believes the vehicles will get better.

With seven top-ranked vehicles, Hyundai ranked as the top overall automaker in the study. Toyota was second with six vehicles, followed by BMW and Nissan at four. General Motors and Stelantis had two.

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