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Tesla ranks dead last in J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey

It's Tesla's first time being included, while Dodge and Chevrolet did very well and Toyota and Honda fell below average.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance
Tesla's quality hiccups are well known, but J.D. Power provides some hard data.
Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The J.D. Power Initial Quality Study provides a snapshot at how various automakers and their brands have a handle on quality, and on Wednesday, the firm dropped its most important one yet. Why? This year, Tesla is a part of the study for the first time ever.

Let's get right to that big piece of news: Tesla ranks dead last, with an asterisk. J.D. Power's methodology is to collect surveys from owners in all 50 states after 90 days of ownership, but Tesla won't let the firm collect information in 15 states. So, J.D. Power instead collected a large enough sample from the 35 other states to include the electric carmaker. Technically, Tesla doesn't qualify to rank, but in the grand scheme of things, it would place last.

In the IQS, J.D. Power measures rankings based on problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), and a low number is the name of the game here. When it comes to Tesla, the firm recorded 250 problems experienced for every 100 Tesla vehicles whose owners it surveyed across the 35 states -- well above the industry average of 166 PP100.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also worth noting is that J.D. Power redesigned the test this year, asking more questions and giving owners greater opportunity to record problems. Overall, PP100 is up from 2019, but as the firm notes, that doesn't necessarily mean vehicle quality has sunk.

Which brands performed well? At the top of the chart sit Dodge and Kia, tied for first place with 136 PP100. Chevrolet and Ram sit tied for second place with 141 PP100. Genesis rounds out the top five with 142 PP100. It was a strong showing for domestic vehicles this year. In fact, five of the top 10 brands hail from a US automaker. More specifically, they're all General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands.

When it comes to each of the brands that placed above the industry average, there are 14, and half of them are domestic. Ford didn't make it into either of these thresholds and placed 16th with 174 PP100. Lincoln fell lower at 21st with 182 PP100.

2020 JD Power Initial Quality Survey

Here's where everyone ranks. Tesla gets a carrot at the bottom since it's not technically part of the final rankings.

2020 J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey

Also surprising is the fall of Japanese automakers. Honda and Toyota, still often known as the gold standard in quality, fall below the industry average with both showing 177 PP100. It's a major contrast with Korean automakers such as Hyundai and Kia, which sit above the industry average. Most luxury brands also fell below the industry average as well, including Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Porsche.

One other nugget stood out as interesting. Despite the drama surrounding Buick importing the Envision from China, the Chinese production plant that builds the SUV was the only plant to earn J.D. Power's Platinum award for fewer than 25 PP100. The Envision recorded just 21 PP100, though this specific stat relates only to defects and malfunctions, not more general problems.

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