Shock results in car quality survey

Tesla has finished at the tail-end of an influential survey for new car quality.

The JD Power Initial Quality Survey asks owners of new cars about problems they've had within the first 90 days of ownership. Customers answer more than 200 questions about various issues ranging from minor glitches to major failure.

Dodge, which sits alongside the likes of Jeep in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group, tied for first place with Kia as customers reported 136 problems per 100 vehicles sold.

Kia has transformed from a discount brand to a well-regarded manufacturer.
Kia has transformed from a discount brand to a well-regarded manufacturer.

Strong performances from Hyundai, Kia's South Korean sister brand, and FCA stablemates Jeep and RAM suggest the top results were not fluked.

Hyundai's Genesis luxury arm finished on top of prestige rivals in the US, joining Lexus and Cadillac as the only premium brands to score better than the car industry's average of 166 problems per 100 cars sold.

Genesis also finished on top of the more comprehensive JD Power vehicle dependability study which surveys American owners after three years of ownership, not three months.

Genesis has scored impressive results thanks to cars such as the G70 sedan.
Genesis has scored impressive results thanks to cars such as the G70 sedan.

Automotive brands in Australia collect similar data but do not report it publicly. Local results might differ, as brands such as Subaru have factories in America for the US market but rely on Japanese production for Australia.

2020 JD Power initial quality survey.
2020 JD Power initial quality survey.

Almost 25 per cent of reported problems were with infotainment features such as touchscreens, voice recognition, satellite navigation or Bluetooth.

Prestige marques Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Audi and Land Rover finished in the bottom five with more than 200 problems per 100 vehicles.

Luxury cars offered by the likes of Audi, Mercedes and BMW have more tech than most.
Luxury cars offered by the likes of Audi, Mercedes and BMW have more tech than most.

That is because some luxury cars are extremely complex, with features such as massaging seats, in-car Wi-Fi, matrix headlights and other elements not found in basic models.

The best-performing car out of hundreds involved in the survey was the Chevrolet Sonic, a back-to-basics city car formerly sold in Australia as the Holden Barina. That car costs less than what some high-end brands charge for special paint treatment.

There is very little to go wrong in basic cars such as Holden’s discontinued Spark.
There is very little to go wrong in basic cars such as Holden’s discontinued Spark.

So Tesla fans shouldn't be too upset by the brand's poor performance, returning a score of 250 problems per 100 cars. The American brand's electric vehicles offer innovative tech such as the ability to play games on its central touchscreen, suspension linked to GPS which will raise itself for steep driveways, or "autopilot" driver aids which are more advanced than most rivals.

Tesla’s Model 3 is one of the most advanced cars on sale.
Tesla’s Model 3 is one of the most advanced cars on sale.

JD Power says Tesla's result isn't official, as the car company prevented it from surveying customers in all states. But the data body is confident it has enough results from Tesla customers to generate a representative profile.

Tesla's score comes as the brand reportedly faces an investigation by the NHTSA highway safety body in the US surrounding touchscreen failures in the original Model S. Automotive News reports the car's touchscreen performance degrades over time, leaving a handful of customers without access to sat nav, infotainment or reversing camera features.

Tesla relies on touchscreens more than any other brand on sale.
Tesla relies on touchscreens more than any other brand on sale.

That might prove a worry for future Tesla Model 3 owners, as the advanced vehicle has a minimalist cockpit without a dedicated dashboard or speedometer - just a single tablet-like interface.

It should also concern luxury brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes which sell cars with digital screens instead of conventional dashboard displays.

Originally published as Shock results in car quality survey


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