Sometimes, more luxury means more problems.
While their sumptuous interiors, premium handling and high-tech powertrains might be worth paying for, luxury vehicles are still losing ground to mainstream cars when it comes to basic quality, according to a new industry survey.
The 2020 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, an annual benchmark that is considered highly influential in vehicle purchases, found that only three luxury brands topped the industry average for problems per vehicle: Hyundai Motor Group’s Genesis, Toyota’s Lexus and General Motors’ Cadillac.
The rest – including Tesla, which had the worst score of any brand – are all below average, in part because “premium brands generally equip their vehicles with more complex technology, which can cause problems for some owners,” according to J.D. Power.
What’s more, the quality of mainstream brands has improved greatly in recent years. In this year’s survey, four mainstream brands took the top slots in the survey: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Dodge, Hyundai Motor Group’s Kia, GM’s Chevrolet and FCA’s Ram.
The highest-ranked model in this year’s survey was the Chevrolet Sonic, a subcompact car.
Hyundai Motor Group, whose brands include Genesis, Hyundai and Kia, had the most vehicles top their segments for highest quality with seven. GM had six, BMW had three, Ford Motor had three and Nissan had three.
To be sure, ranking high on quality doesn’t necessarily translate into popularity. Many Americans buy vehicles for other reasons, including styling, fuel efficiency, power, utility and status.
The quality of the Chevy Sonic, for example, has not translated into a boost at the dealership. Sonic sales fell 32% to 13,971 vehicles in 2019 as Americans continued to lose interest in small cars.
Meanwhile, Tesla sales surged in 2019 as the automaker gained market share. But it earned the worst score of any brand rated by J.D. Power, with an average of 250 problems per 100 vehicles. J.D. Power said Tesla’s electric vehicle systems perform well, but the brand struggles with other problems, such as paint quality, wind noise, rattling and body panel fit and finish, among other things.
J.D. Power said it is not officially including Tesla in its rankings since the company did not provide permission for it to survey Tesla owners in 15 states where it is required. But J.D. Power still scored the company based on surveys of owners in the other 35 states. That score trailed the worst-officially ranked brand, Land Rover.
The 34th annual survey, conducted from February through May, assessed the performance of 2020 model-year vehicles within 90 days after they were sold. It included 223 questions and 87,272 vehicles.
Here’s how the J.D. Power IQS study scored the major brands (problems per 100 vehicles):
- Dodge (136)
- Kia (136)
- Chevrolet (141)
- Ram (141)
- Genesis (142)
- Mitsubishi (148)
- Buick (150)
- GMC (151)
- Volkswagen (152)
- Hyundai (153)
- Jeep (155)
- Lexus (159)
- Nissan (161)
- Cadillac (162)
- Infiniti (173)
- Ford (174)
- Mini (174)
- BMW (176)
- Honda (177)
- Toyota (177)
- Lincoln (182)
- Mazda (184)
- Acura (185)
- Porsche (186)
- Subaru (187)
- Chrysler (189)
- Jaguar (190)
- Mercedes-Benz (202)
- Volvo (210)
- Audi (225)
- Land Rover (228)
- Tesla (250)
These were the 26 highest-quality 2020 model-year vehicles in their segments, according to J.D Power IQS:
- Small car: Chevrolet Sonic
- Small premium car: Audi A3
- Compact car: Kia Forte
- Compact premium car: Genesis G70
- Compact sporty car: Hyundai Veloster and Mini Cooper (tie)
- Midsize car: Chevrolet Malibu
- Midsize premium car: Cadillac CT5
- Midsize sporty car: Ford Mustang
- Upper midsize premium car: Cadillac CT6
- Large car: Nissan Maxima
- Large premium car: BMW 8 Series
- Small SUV: Kia Soul
- Small premium SUV: Jaguar E-Pace
- Compact SUV: Hyundai Tucson
- Compact premium SUV: Cadillac XT4
- Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano
- Midsize premium SUV: Lexus GX
- Upper midsize SUV: Kia Sorento
- Upper midsize premium SUV: BMW X6
- Large SUV: Nissan Armada
- Large premium SUV: Cadillac Escalade
- Minivan: Kia Sedona
- Midsize pickup: Ford Ranger
- Large light-duty pickup: Toyota Tundra
- Large heavy-duty pickup: Ford Super Duty