J.D. Power is out with its annual U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study for 2020, which looks at problems experienced by owners of three-year-old vehicles. The big takeaways are continued improvement in overall vehicle dependability, with the brands Genesis, Lexus and Buick taking the top three spots, in order. But once again, the usual caveats apply.
Autoblog years ago raised issues with the study, which gives the same weight to matters of subjective likability, such as complaints about pairing their device with the vehicle's Bluetooth or ease of operating the audio system, to more substantive issues like a defective climate system or transmission trouble. J.D. Power continues to tally problems across eight categories, including audio/communication/entertainment/navigation, and despite that being the most improved category, the organization says it still accounts for more problems than any other.
"Many owners complain about these systems early in the ownership experience and, three years later, they’re still frustrated with them," Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a release. "We’re seeing improvement, but automakers still have a long way to go before they can declare victory in this area." Further, the rapid introduction of technology in vehicles means overall dependability could plateau or even decrease in the coming years, he said.
Now in its 31st year, the study measures the number of problems per 100 vehicles experienced over the past 12 months by owners of 2017 model-year vehicles. The overall average of 134 problems per 100 vehicles was the best level ever recorded in the study, J.D. Power said.
In its first year being included in the study, Genesis dislodged Lexus as the top brand, notching just 89 problems per 100 vehicles. The luxury arm of Hyundai had just two models on sale in 2017 — the G80 and G90 sedans. The Lexus ES ranked as the most dependable model, with 52 problems, the best ever score in the study’s history.
Rounding out the top five brands were Porsche (104 problems) and Toyota (113). The bottom five of 32 brands ranked were GMC (162), Volvo (185), Jaguar (186), Chrysler (214) and Land Rover (220).
Tesla was not included in the study because it didn’t give the organization permission to contact its customers in certain states, J.D. Power told Automotive News.
Crossovers and SUVs drove much of the overall gains and narrowed their dependability gap with cars to 134 problems per 100 vehicles, compared to 127, respectively.
In its own most recent rankings of most reliable car brands, Consumer Reports gave top marks to Lexus, Mazda and Toyota, with Volkswagen and Acura at the bottom end. Unlike J.D. Power, CR uses a formula that weights the severity of each type of problem to form a predicted average reliability score for each vehicle. It also uses a different survey pool than J.D. Power.