J.D. Power, a provider of consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics, has published its 2021 US Vehicle Dependability Study – showing that vehicle dependability is at an all-time high with the overall level of problems cited by owners declining 10% from a year ago.
“The study results validate what we have known for some time,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “Automakers are making increasingly dependable vehicles—but there are still some problem areas that need to be addressed and some warning signs on the horizon.”
The study measures the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old vehicles.
A lower score reflects higher dependability, and the study covers 177 specific problems grouped into eight major vehicle categories: audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN); engine/transmission; exterior; interior; features/controls/displays (FCD); driving experience; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and seats.
The 2018 model-year vehicles measured in this year’s study were first examined in the J.D. Power 2018 US Initial Quality Study (IQS), SM when new-vehicle quality had improved for the fourth consecutive year and reached its best level ever. Six of the 10 brands that ranked highest in that study also appear among the ten highest ranked in the 2021 VDS.
“Today’s three-year-old vehicles are of higher quality and more dependable than in previous years,” Sargent said. “Most owners aren’t experiencing their vehicles breaking down or falling apart but, for many, vehicle technology continues to function poorly or inconsistently.
“If an owner can’t rely on a system to work as they expect, it is also considered a lack of dependability. It affects their overall view of the vehicle and their likelihood of staying loyal to their automaker. In the future, dependability will partially be determined by the ability to solve problems through vehicle updates and the avoidance of technology obsolescence.”
Key findings of the 2021 study:
- The industry average is 121 PP100—the lowest in the study’s history—and a 13 PP100 (10%) improvement from 134 PP100 in 2020.
- Korean and Japanese brands perform well: Owners of Asian brand vehicles experience the fewest problems (115 PP100) compared with domestic brands (126 PP100) and European brands (131 PP100). This gap is due in part to Korean brands Kia, Hyundai and Genesis which, when combined, average just 99 PP100 and represent a 19-point gap vs. the Japanese brands (collectively 118 PP100).
- Most Dependable Model: The Porsche 911 is the highest-ranked model in the 2021 study. It is the second time in three years that it has been named Most Dependable Model.
Lexus ranks highest in overall vehicle dependability among all brands, with a score of 81 PP100. This is the ninth time in 10 years that Lexus ranks highest. Porsche (86 PP100) ranks second, followed by Kia (97 PP100), Toyota (98 PP100), Buick (100 PP100) and Cadillac (also 100 PP100).
Kia shows considerable improvement, with a reduction of 35 PP100 from 2020. This is also the first time Kia ranks highest overall among mass market brands. Other brands above industry average showing the greatest improvement in PP100 are Cadillac, Acura and Hyundai (all by 31 PP100), and Mitsubishi (by 30 PP100).
The 2021 US Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from 33,251 original owners of 2018 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. The study was fielded from July 2020 through November 2020.