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The Ram truck and van brand bested all other automotive brands as the highest quality vehicle lineup for the 2021 model year, according to an influential study.
The closely followed J.D. Power Initial Quality Study named Ram and its sibling brand, Dodge, as the first and second highest quality brands in the industry, respectively.
They topped top-of-the-list stalwart Lexus, the luxury brand made by Toyota. Lexus tied for third with Mitsubishi.
“This is not a data-point; this is a trend,” said Mark Champine, head of North America customer experience at Stellantis, which makes the Ram, Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat brands, in a statement. “Anyone who knows the robustness of our product-improvement processes, as well as the engagement level of our workforce, is not surprised by these latest results.”
The 35th annual J.D. Power study assessed the first three months of 2021 model-year vehicle ownership among nearly 111,000 owners, who answered 223 questions about features like infotainment, powertrain, comfort and safety.
The assessment is separate from J.D. Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study, which tracks the reliability of cars, trucks and SUVs after three years of use.
In the 2021 IQS study, the Nissan Maxima, a large car, ranked as the highest quality vehicle.
Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group, which includes the Hyundai and Kia brands, had seven vehicles named as the highest quality models in their individual categories, the most of any company. (See the full list below.)
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Toyota had five, BMW four, Nissan three, General Motors two and Stellantis two.
The industry average was 162 problems per 100 vehicles, which was fourmore than in 2020. Twenty of the 32 measured brands improved their quality compared with 2020.
But infotainment shortcomings continue to undermine vehicle quality, according to J.D. Power.
It was “the most problematic category,” representing 1 in 4 of all problems and 6 of the 10 most common issues, according to J.D. Power.
One of the most common problems: people are frustrated when their phones don’t seamlessly connect with their vehicles.
“Owners are caught in the middle when vehicle and phone technologies don’t properly connect,” Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “This year there are many examples of smartphone technology not working as intended in new vehicles. With more vehicles being fitted with the wireless technology owners want, the study reveals an increase in connectivity problems between smartphones and vehicles, leaving many owners unhappy.”
The five lowest officially ranked brands were Alfa Romeo, Volvo, Volkswagen, Audi and Chrysler.
Tesla was not included in the official rankings since it does not provide permission for its owners to be surveyed in the 15 states where such permission is required. But based on the automaker’s scores in the other 35 states, it ranks as the third-lowest quality brand, according to J.D. Power.
Here are the 23 highest quality 2021 vehicles in their respective categories, according to J.D. Power:
- Small car: Hyundai Accent
- Small premium car: BMW 2 Series
- Compact car: Kia Forte
- Compact premium car: Lexus RC
- Premium sporty car: Chevrolet Corvette
- Midsize car: Nissan Altima
- Midsize premium car: Cadillac CT5
- Upper midsize premium car: Genesis G80
- Large car: Nissan Maxima
- Small SUV: Kia Soul
- Small premium SUV: Lexus UX
- Compact SUV: Kia Sportage
- Compact premium SUV: BMW X4
- Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano
- Midsize premium SUV: Lexus RX
- Upper midsize SUV: Kia Telluride
- Upper midsize premium SUV: BMW X6
- Large SUV: Toyota Sequoia
- Large premium SUV: BMW X7
- Minivan: Kia Sedona
- Midsize pickup: Jeep Gladiator
- Large light-duty pickup: Toyota Tundra
- Large heavy-duty pickup: Ram 2500/3500
Here are the highest-quality auto brands for 2021 (ranked by number of problems per 100 vehicles):
- Ram (128)
- Dodge (139)
- Lexus (144)
- Mitsubishi (144)
- Nissan (146)
- Kia (147)
- Genesis (148)
- Hyundai (149)
- Jeep (149)
- Chevrolet (151)
- Mini (151)
- Buick (156)
- Toyota (157)
- Ford (162)
- Lincoln (163)
- Porsche (163)
- GMC (164)
- Honda (164)
- Jaguar (165)
- BMW (166)
- Infiniti (170)
- Cadillac (173)
- Mazda (177)
- Subaru (182)
- Mercedes-Benz (193)
- Acura (200)
- Land Rover (200)
- Alfa Romeo (204)
- Volvo (210)
- Volkswagen (213)
- Tesla (231)*
- Audi (240)
- Chrysler (251)
*Tesla’s score is based on vehicle owners from 35 states since the automaker did not provide J.D. Power permission to survey its owners in the 15 states where such permission is required.
You can follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.