New car owners are experiencing more problems in the first 90 days of ownership than ever before.
Buick took the top spot in the 2022 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, but the headline isn’t the winner this year. It’s an overall jump in the number of complaints. Nearly every brand performed worse in 2022 than in 2021. This year’s cars showed the worst overall initial quality in the study’s history.
The study, in its 36th year, asks new car owners to report problems with their vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. The numbers had been trending down in recent years. Last year, the industry average was 162 owner complaints per 100 vehicles. In 2020, that figure was 166.
This year, it was 180.
An Outlier Thanks to a Bad Year, or a Sign of Things to Come?
On the one hand, the number may show that 2022 is an outlier. Over the past year, vehicle factories have faced COVID-19-related factory shutdowns, repeated supply chain problems, and a global microchip shortage, causing automakers to add and delete features on the fly to keep the lines moving.
On the other, it may be a sign of an industry-wide problem. Every engineer knows that more complex machines have more possible failure points. Today’s cars keep growing more complex.
Infotainment systems caused more complaints than any other feature. The most common complaint? Trouble connecting to Apple Carplay or Android Auto.
Adding weight to the complexity argument, buyers of feature-heavy luxury cars reported 196 problems per 100 vehicles on average. Buyers of mass-market brands reported 175.
Most Brands Slipped
Twenty-five of 33 brands studied saw their scores grow worse this year. General Motors’ quality control team seems to have done the best job of weathering the many crises of 2022. All four of its U.S. brands – Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac – improved their scores from 2021. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, and Audi also saw improvement.
Every other automaker had more problems reported in 2022 than in 2021, according to the report.
EVs Reported More Problems
Electric vehicles (EVs) performed worse than gas-powered models in the study. EVs had 240 complaints per 100 vehicles on average, plug-in hybrid vehicles had 239, and gas-powered cars averaged 175.
Those numbers are complicated by the fact that Tesla vehicles weren’t counted in the study. Fully 75% of the EVs sold in the U.S. last quarter were Tesla products.
Several states require automakers to consent before J.D. Power can use their data. Tesla chose not to participate. J.D. Power published unofficial figures based on the data from states that don’t require automaker consent but didn’t rank the brand because the data was incomplete.
Problems per 100 vehicles
*Tesla did not provide complete data. It received an unofficial score of 226 based on the limited data available.