The 2015 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study has been released and the industry as a whole has improved in initial quality.
For the first time in the 29-year history of the U.S. Initial Quality Study, Japanese automakers fell below the industry average, with only four of the 10 Japanese brands included in the study posting an improvement. While Porsche ranked highest in the study for the third consecutive year just as there are many familiar faces at the top of the list, the same it true at the bottom.
The study examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. Each automaker’s initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, with a lower score reflecting higher quality.
In the 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study, Volkswagen owners reported 123 problems per 100 vehicles, slightly down from last year’s 128 count. Despite the minor improvement in initial quality, Volkswagen is ranked 10th out of all the automakers, compared to ninth last year. The German automaker’s ranking is interesting, considering other automakers within the Volkswagen Group excel in the Initial Quality Study, with Porsche topping the list and Audi earning awards for the Q3.
Another sub-brand that struggles despite having a strong parent brand is Scion. With 124 problems reported per 100 vehicles, Scion lands in the ninth position, but improves significantly compared to last year’s 140 problems and fourth place finish. Toyota, which is Scion’s parent brand, is ranked above the industry average of 112 problems with an initial quality of 104.
The trend continues with Acura, with owners reporting 126 problems per 100 vehicles compared to last year’s 131. Despite the better initial quality score, Acura maintains its position as the eighth worst automaker in initial quality, which again, is surprising considering Honda has an initial quality score of 111. Even with its troubles as a brand, the new Acura ILX was the second best model in the Small Premium Car segment.
Mitsubishi’s woes continue in the U.S. market, coming in as the seventh worst automaker in initial quality with 126 reported problems per 100 vehicles. It’s worth noting that Mitsubishi is much improved compared to last year, when vehicle owners reported 145 problems per 100 vehicles, making Mitsubishi the third worst automaker in 2014.
6. Land Rover
Being a luxury brand doesn’t automatically exempt your vehicles from having problems. With 134 reported problems per 100 vehicles, Land Rover is one of the few that saw more problems than last year, when the company had 127 problems per 100 vehicles. In 2014, Land Rover barely escaped being one of the top 10 worst automakers with an 11th spot finish, but 2015’s study wasn’t as good for the brand.
The first American automaker in the top 10 worst car brands in initial quality is Jeep, part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) brand. For the 2015 study, owners reported 141 problems per 100 vehicles, which helped Jeep dig out of its hole last year, where it was the second worst brand with 146 problems. Still, Jeep owners are reporting 30 problems more per 100 vehicles than the industry average and it’s just the beginning for FCA’s woes.
Subaru has been enjoying a rise in sales with numerous record-breaking years in a row, but owners aren’t enjoying their brand new vehicles. This year, Subaru owners reported 142 problems per 100 vehicles, four more than last year when Subaru finished in sixth place.
Another brand in FCA’s portfolio, Chrysler, finished in third place this year, a massive drop compared to last year when Chrysler was actually better than the industry average. In the 2014 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, Chrysler owners reported 111 problems per 100 vehicles, but in 2015 there were 143 problems. The significant increase should be alarming for Chrysler, which likely enjoyed its short stint towards the top half of last year’s study.
There weren’t enough Smart owners to poll last year, which excluded the German automaker from making the list. This year, Smart came in with a splash, finishing as the second worst car brand in initial quality with 154 reported problems per 100 vehicles. Maybe there’s a reason why there weren’t enough Smart owners to survey last year.
For at least another year, Fiat will be the worst brand in initial quality. Last year, the Italian automaker was slammed in the study with owners reporting 206 problems per 100 vehicles, an overwhelming amount over the industry average. This year, Fiat fared considerably better with 161 problems, but that’s nearly 50 more than the industry average of 112.