Shifting Gear: Domestics Lead New Auto Rankings

The annual J.D. Power U.S. Initial Quality Study of new vehicles reveals a shakeup for those in the market, with mainstream brands leading the way over fancy imports or luxury names. "Dodge is the number one ranked brand in the industry, tied with Kia, so they're both ranked number one," says Dave Sargent, J.D. Power vice president of global automotive. "Chevrolet and Ram tied for third place---this is the best performance ever by either of these two brands, and it means obviously that three of the top four brands in the study are domestic."

The survey, now in its 34th year, examines new vehicles (2020 models for this year) and ranks them based on the number of problems experienced by owners or lessees during the first 90 days of ownership. It is based on 223 questions spread across nine categories covering all aspects of the vehicle.

Sargent notes this is the first time Dodge has ever topped the rankings, but it is well deserved. "Dodge has done an extremely good job of refining their product lineup, replacing some older vehicles, and really delivering U.S. customers what they want in terms of a trouble free experience," he says.

While traditional vehicle names and models led the rankings, some fancy, expensive "premium" brands did not fare as well. In fact, Tesla scored the lowest of any brand in the study, underscoring Americans' continued reluctance to embrace electric cars.

Sargent believes it's all about simplicity. "Brands which launched a high volume of vehicles this year, and/or brands that have a lot of confusing technology on them tend to struggle," he says. "Brands that deliver consumers a simple technology experience tend to perform much better."

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