Tesla has more initial problems than any other brand—but that status comes with a big asterisk.
You’ve seen the best, now see the rest. When J.D. Power released its 2020 Initial Quality Study last month, which tallies the number of problems per 100 cars (PP100), it included a major surprise: an American brand topped the charts for the very first time. Not only that, but US brands filled exactly half of the top 10 spots. But just as there are winners, there have to be the worst performers in the yearly study. That’s where this list comes in.
Just like the “Best” list, an American brand sits at the top of this one: Tesla. Well, sort of. This is the first year J.D. Power has been able to score the brand, but the analytics company is quick to point out Tesla’s wooden spoon isn’t an official ranking. “Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required,” said Doug Betts, president of the automotive division at J.D. Power. “However, we were able to collect a large enough sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states and, from that base, we calculated Tesla’s score.”
There’s less shake-up here than the “Best” list. J.D. Power revised the scoring method this year, including infotainment issues—which brought the industry average up some 50 percent. This implies that these manufacturers are still struggling with traditional issues as well as tech trouble.
The bottom third of the list is filled with luxury brands, suggesting a common thread amongst them. Read on for the full list.
Acura moves up a single place over last year, but it’s not enough to escape the bottom 10. The manufacturer has a mix of old (its sedans) and new (its SUVs) contributing to its score. The RDX compact crossover is selling well, and we’re hopeful for the return of the sporting Acura sedan in the shape of the 2021 TLX.
Porsche lands in ninth on this list, though it’s a close fight for the first half of it. The German luxury brand averaged 185 problems per 100 cars. It has three new models in the shape of the Cayenne, 911, and Taycan, while the Macan had a significant refresh recently too.
The Japanese brand known for its jacked-up wagons and standard all-wheel drive—except the BRZ—slots into eighth. Subaru has had a product (and sales) offensive for the last two years, significantly updating or moving to the next generation for every one of its models—again, except the BRZ. The latest batch of upgrades has included a gigantic, portrait-orientation touchscreen, as seen in the Legacy and Outback.
Chrysler is the odd one out in FCA’s lineup of American brands. The others all scored near the top, with Jeep being the second-lowest at 11th overall. Why is Chrysler still down in the bottom 10, a regular occurrence for the brand? It’s hard to say. The ancient 300 shares its platform with the Dodge Charger—the top-rated brand this year—and the only other modern Chrysler product is the Pacifica. Dodge’s minivan has its own unique platform, including a plug-in hybrid version.
Jaguar is another brand we’re unfortunately used to seeing in the bottom rungs of the IQS. On the plus side, it moved up this year, after the ignominious title of lowest-ranking brand in 2019. Not much has changed for the storied British lineup in 2020; the biggest news is the update to the F-Type sports car, which somehow manages to look even better now.
Mercedes drops from mid-pack to fifth-last this year. The German luxury brand has introduced a lot of new metal in the last 12 months, ranging from its smaller A-Class to revamps of most of its SUV lineup. Is it the updated infotainment system, dubbed MBUX, that’s tanked its rating this year? We hope not, as it remains one of our faves in the industry.
Volvo has an unfortunate history of occupying this part of the rankings, and this year it’s dropped a spot. The cool Swedish brand will introduce its first purely electric model, the XC40 Recharge, this year.
Audi reappears on the bottom-10 list with the third-worst ranking. With 225 PP100 versus the 210 of Volvo, it’s the largest (official) gap on the list, and just slightly below the worst official result…
Let’s look on the bright side here, this is a better year for Jaguar Land Rover than last year’s IQS results. In 2019 Land Rover had the second-highest PP100 score, directly behind Jaguar. This year the SUV brand’s PP100 number is the highest of all the officially-scored brands, but there’s one that blew past them all.
Tesla’s unofficial PP100 score of is 250; 22 more than the last official score, 84 more than the industry average, and nearly double the top-ranked Kia and Dodge. And that’s only the 35 states where the American brand worked with J.D. Power. Build quality issues hounded the Model 3 when production began two years ago, and it’s an area Tesla has struggled with in its quest to scale up production.