The quality of new vehicles sold in the United States is declining as factors such as the growing use of technology and lower build quality of certain parts make the models more “problematic,” according to automotive consultant J.D. Power.
The latest Initial Quality Study from J.D. Power, based on problems reported by owners during the first 90 days of ownership, found that overall vehicle quality declined for the second year due to more technology. It is the first time that has happened in the survey’s history, which dates back 37 years.
Industry-wide problems per 100 vehicles rose to 192 this year, up from 180 last year to 162 the year before. Many problems were tied to adding new features, particularly those related to safety systems. However, infotainment systems and wireless smartphone charging pads also contributed to the rise.
Automakers have been focusing on software and new technology as they rush to roll out innovative models amid easing supply constraints and labor shortages. That’s why some higher-priced, feature-laden models have more issues than others. Buick improved quality the most this year among mass-market brands, with its new Enclave SUV scoring best in the category. G.M. vehicles, including the Ram 1500 and Jeep Gladiator pickups, also had the lowest number of problems among the light-duty trucks, while Chevrolet’s Equinox earned top marks in midsize SUVs.
Genesis continued to lead the way in luxury cars, with its new G70 sedan scoring the highest in the segment. Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW all experienced declines in their quality scores. Luxury brands such as Lincoln, Land Rover, and Audi also saw their quality drop this year.
Overall, EVs and plug-in hybrids had more problems than gas-powered cars. Among electric brands, Tesla was at the bottom of the list, while Polestar and Volvo were close behind.
According to J.D. Power, problems cited by owners relating to infotainment and connectivity continue to be a significant driver of the overall quality score. This includes problems with operating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, touch screens, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Some other problems reported by owners reflected more traditional aspects of the vehicle, such as exterior and interior features. Interestingly, some of the most common problems involved door handles, which were found to need to be better designed or manufactured in many of the newer vehicles. That’s probably a result of some of the sleek, aerodynamic designs that some automakers have employed to offer more advanced driving technologies. It also might reflect that consumers have been willing to pay near record-high transaction prices for those features. This year, 93,380 purchasers and lessees of 2023 model-year vehicles were surveyed for the study. They were asked about their satisfaction with vehicle performance, reliability, the dealership experience, and more. The 223-question survey included questions about exterior; features, controls, and displays; driving assistance; comfort and convenience; interior; and powertrain.