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J.D. Power released its 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) report in February 2023, ranking new cars based on their dependability. According to the report, mass-market brands performed better than their luxury counterparts after recording an improvement for fewer problems than their performance in 2022. 

While Lexus –known for releasing model trims for every shopper – ranks the highest overall in vehicle dependability, Kia leads the pack in the mass-market segment. Surprisingly, renowned brands, such as Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, and Subaru, ranked as the least dependable companies. So, what was J.D. Power’s criterion for ranking these vehicle brands?

The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) ranking criterion

The 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study examined 2020 vehicle models and how they currently perform regarding quality, appeal, component maintenance, and new technology. This report is based on reviews and responses from 30,062 verified owners of 2020 models after three years of ownership. 

J.D. Power ranked the three-year-old vehicles based on the number of problems per 100 (PP100) vehicles. Therefore, the higher the PP100 score, the lower the performance, and vice versa. This year’s report indicated an industry average of 186 PP100, an improvement from last year’s 192 PP100.

The 2020 model-year cars were first examined in the redesigned J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), which measured vehicle performance based on the components that fail and difficult-to-use technology features. J.D. Power redesigned the study again in 2022 to include components and technology available in 2023 model-year vehicles. It now captures 184 specific issues across nine categories: exterior, features and controls, interior, driving assistance, infotainment, powertrain, seat comfort, and driving experience. 

Mass-market vehicle brands more dependable than premium brands 

A red Genesis GV70 compact luxury SUV model driving through an urban city contrasted by shadows
Genesis GV70 luxury SUV | Hyundai Motor Company

The 2023 VDS report also indicated that mass-market brands showed the most significant improvement for fewer problems with a 182 PP100 score, 23 PP100 lower than luxury brands (205 PP100). It’s the largest chasm between the two segments since the study’s inception 34 years ago and can be attributed to the disparity in introducing new vehicle technology.

Automakers typically roll out concepts and feature updates in their flagship models first. It means premium brands usually have more sophisticated tech features, increasing the complexity and the chances of vehicle owners experiencing additional issues. However, reports from the J.D. Power 2020 IQS and 2023 VDS show a bellwether of mass-market brands adopting these new technologies into their model lineups and improving them based on the initial problems faced by luxury brands. 

Despite their somewhat below-par performance, premium brands also ranked relatively high for car dependability. Leading the segment is Genesis with 144 PP100, followed by Cadillac (173 PP100). BMW took third place with 184 PP100 but came in at No. 2 in the “Parent Corporation Most Model-Level Awards” category with four awards for the BMW X2, BMW X5, BMW 4 Series, and Mini Cooper. 

The four least dependable mass-market car companies

A closeup shot of a red-orange 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat compact pickup truck's headlights and grille
2022 Ford Maverick Lariat | The Ford Motor Company

According to J.D. Power’s 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, the four least dependable mass-market vehicle companies include Ford, which, despite ranking among the top 3 SUV manufacturers, ranks the lowest with 249 PP100. It’s followed by Volkswagen (216 PP100), Subaru (214 PP100), and Honda (205 PP100). All companies may be the least dependable overall, but Honda is still much more reliable than Ford based on the scores. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Lexus emerged as the best overall in the mass-market segment for the third consecutive time after bagging 152 PP100. At No. 2 is Buick with 159 PP100, followed by Chevrolet (162 PP100), Mitsubishi (167 PP100), and Toyota (168 PP100).

J.D. Power officially included Tesla in its VDS ranking for the first time this year, although the brand was assigned a score of 242 PP100. That technically makes Tesla the least dependable brand, but there’s a reason. The EV maker didn’t provide J.D. Power access to its owner information in the states where releasing such information is only required by law. Thus, Tesla vehicles remain ineligible for the study ranking.

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