Tesla trails the pack in its first JD Power auto quality study

Slide   Kia continues to be a standout as the highest-ranking brand in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study although this year the Korean brand shares the crown in a tie with a time-honored American make associated with muscle — D

The study examines problems experienced by owners of new 2020 model-year vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership.

Tesla has appeared in a JD Power Initial Quality Study for the first time, and it doesn't look good for the electric vehicle maker - although the story is more complex than it sounds.

The initial quality score is expressed in terms of number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, or PP100. JD Power did not officially rank them because the company said Tesla wouldn't let it survey its owners in 15 states, but based on surveys of owners in 35 states Tesla's score was ... bad. Those surveyed from other states reported 250 problems per 100 vehicles, more than any other brand and well below the average.

The low score comes mostly from build quality issues, such as paint defects, squeaks, and rattles.

Kia tied Dodge and maintained its six-year streak as top-ranked mainstream brand. Chevrolet and Ram place third in a tie.

Infotainment is most problematic category: nearly one-fourth of all problems cited by new-vehicle owners relate to infotainment.

However, the survey results indicated Tesla is dealing with build quality problems most other automakers have solved.

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The little Chevrolet Sonic was the year's most trouble-free model. Premium brands have suffered in the annual survey due to confusing tech, according to their owners. For contrast, almost a quarter of all automakers' problems stemmed from infotainment issues like touchscreens, phone connectivity and built-in navigation.

"The Initial Quality Study is the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality and, year after year, automakers apply the insights they learn from consumers to make positive changes", said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. It is the 34th edition of the Initial Quality Study, which JD Power says it has redesigned this year.

"More and more of these features, if they don't work the way you want them to work, and they're not useful to you, that's a problem you can't get fixed", Betts said. Dodge is the first domestic brand in the study's history to rank highest. Once regarded as the gold standard in quality, most Japanese brands have not improved as fast as competitors have and they continue to trail most Korean and domestic brands.

At a brand level, the big winners were Cadillac and Kia which each had four segment winners.

Tesla was included in the survey for the first time.

Infotainment systems account for a quarter of all problems reported in new cars. Jaguar receives first-ever model-level award with the Jaguar E-Pace. Those questions were broken down into nine categories, including infotainment; features, controls, and displays; climate; seats; driver-assistance features; interior; exterior; powertrain; and driving experience.

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