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Ram, Dodge and Lexus top 2021 JD Power Initial Quality Survey

This is the first time Stellantis' truck brand has ever topped the list.

2021 Ram 1500
Ram performed significantly above average in JD Power's 2021 Initial Quality Survey.
Andrew Krok/Roadshow

New cars are super expensive, so if you're plunking down lots of coin on some new metal, you probably want it to provide you with a quality ownership experience, right? What you don't want is a vehicle that's likely to give you a ton of problems requiring service, especially since parts are also hard to come by, thanks to the veritable rat king of supply chain issues caused by COVID-19. Luckily, JD Power has its yearly Initial Quality Survey (IQS), and the 2021 edition's results were released Tuesday.

Before we get into the results, let's talk about what the Initial Quality Study means and its criteria. The study is based on the results of 110,827 buyers and lessees of 2021 model year vehicles. The survey encompasses only the first 90 days of ownership, and the results are measured in a unit that JD Power calls PP100, or problems per 100 vehicles. Lastly, Tesla is mentioned, but its results are considered unofficial because it won't grant JD Power permission to speak to its customers in the states where that is required.

The good news is that, once again, cars have improved in initial quality overall. This year it's by 2%, which is a slight slowdown from previous years' 3% improvement. The overall winner this year is -- drumroll followed by shocked audience gasp -- Ram. This is the first time Stellantis' truck brand has topped the charts, and it does it with just 128 problems reported per 100 vehicles. Sister-brand Dodge comes in second with 139 PP100.

Those numbers don't mean a lot without context, though, right? The industry average for 2021 is 162 PP100. Interestingly, according to JD Power, one in four of the problems reported has something to do with a vehicle's infotainment system. The increasingly complex nature of modern infotainment has been a thorn in automakers' sides for a long time now.

Lexus is is the highest-ranking premium brand and the third-highest-ranking brand overall, with a score of 144 PP100. In general, JD Power has found that mass-market brands (Hyundai, Nissan, etc.) do better than premium brands like Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar or Audi. This likely has a lot to do with the level of electronic gadgetry and the overall complexity of more expensive vehicles.

As we mentioned before, Tesla's results in the survey are considered unofficial, but the numbers aren't flattering. The Big T did better this year by 19 PP100, for a total of 231, which is... not great. Land Rover, a bastion of unreliability for decades, for example, beat Tesla with 200 PP100.

Now that we know who is on top, it's only fair to look at who is on the bottom, and the worst three manufacturers are Volkswagen, Audi and Chrysler, with 213, 240 and 251 PP100, respectively. Just how Dodge can do so well, when it is using the same technology as Chrysler, kind of boggles the mind.

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