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New car quality dropped sharply this year, J.D. Power reports

The survey traces many of the problems to the COVID-19 pandemic

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It’s frustrating enough that new cars are more expensive and harder to find these days. But a new report also suggests their quality has slipped during the pandemic.

J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study found the quality of new cars fell because of the disruptions to the industry caused by the pandemic. Supply chain issues, record-high vehicle prices, and personnel dislocations contributed to vehicle problems reaching a record high in the 36-year history of the study. 

Measured against the 2021 survey, the auto industry experienced an 11% increase in problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), which is 18 PP100 worse than last year.

“Given the many challenges automakers and their dealers had to face in the past year, it’s somewhat surprising that initial quality didn’t fall even more dramatically,” said David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power.

A reversal of quality improvement

Amodeo says the current study results stand in sharp contrast to the steady improvement throughout the history of this study but may be understandable considering the headwinds facing the industry.

“Automakers continue to launch vehicles that are more and more technologically complex in an era in which there have been many shortages of critical components to support them," Amodeo said.

General Motors vehicles moved to the head of the class in the 2022 survey. Buick's quality improved 17 PP100 year over year, vaulting it from 12th place in 2021 to the highest overall ranking in 2022.

Chevrolet ranked third, behind Dodge. David, of Kansas City, Kan., recently told us he is happy with his Chevy Equinox.

“My experience driving the car was awesome,” David wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “The car met every expectation. I would recommend the Equinox for a family just starting out or who has two kids. Great road trip car. Very smooth ride.”

Issues with technology

J.D. Power reports mass-market brands seemed to have fewer issues among 2022 models than luxury brands. J.D. Power says that may be due to the increased amount of technology in higher-priced vehicles.

The report shows vehicle infotainment systems provided the largest source of problems with an average of 45.0 PP100,  19.5 PP100 more problems than the next-highest category. 

Six of the top 10 problem areas in the study are infotainment-related, including Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity,  built-in voice recognition, difficulties with touch screens/display screens, built-in Bluetooth systems, not enough power plugs/USB ports, and inconsistent audio volume.

Overall, just nine of 33 ranked brands improved in vehicle quality year over year.

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