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The past couple of years have been tough on the automotive industry. The pandemic’s ongoing impact on global supply chains continues to dictate what car makers can and can’t do with their current line of vehicles. As a result, the annual J.D. Power U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS) reads much more negatively this year than it has previously. Every manufacturer was forced to revise its plans during 2020, but some brands have dealt with the current reality much better than their competitors. 

Buick was one of the few companies that improved the quality of its vehicles since last year, earning the brand a vaunted place at the top of the rankings. 

The automotive industry has been deeply affected by the pandemic

The Buick logo seen on a Buick Velite in Shanghai, China
The Buick logo | Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

You can read J.D. Power‘s findings for yourself, but the summarized version is that the numerous restrictions placed on the production process of cars in the past two years have significantly lessened the quality of most vehicles. 

According to the IQS, the industry dealt with an 11% increase in problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), which is 18 PP100 worse than last year. There have never been this many structural problems at any other point in the 36-year history of the study. 

Supply chain issues, chip shortages, and record-high vehicle prices all combined to create this underwhelming status quo. The lack of surprise in this verdict doesn’t make it any less disappointing to hear. 

“Given the many challenges automakers and their dealers had to face in the past year, it’s somewhat surprising that initial quality didn’t fall even more dramatically,” said David Amodeo, director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “In general, initial quality has shown steady improvement throughout the history of this study, so the decline this year is disappointing—yet understandable. Automakers continue to launch more and more technologically complex vehicles in an era in which there have been many shortages of critical components to support them.”

Once coronavirus (COVID-19) entered the consciousness and destroyed the global workflow, chip suppliers had to be pickier about which businesses would be prioritized while production processes were stopped or slowed down. Since the auto industry only makes up about 5% of chip usage and requires older legacy parts that provide low-profit margins at the best of times, there was no incentive to put car companies at the front of the line. 

Many modern features are either hampered or removed entirely from new cars. Infotainment and driving assistance system problems increased in 2022, and both battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles have higher PP100 metrics than vehicles with internal combustion engines. 

How did Buick earn the highest J.D. Power ranking?

The IQS does present some good news for a small group of brands. After collecting responses from 84,165 owners and lessees of 2022 model year vehicles during the first half of the year, Buick was named the highest-ranking brand in overall initial quality with a score of 139 PP100. (The industry average was 180 PP100.)

Buick’s place at the top is notable for several reasons. The brand finished 12th in 2021, improving its PP100 by 17 in that timeframe. The company is also one of the nine brands that improved its vehicle quality since the last IQS. 

“At Buick, the quality of our materials, world-class manufacturing, and customer-centric design are at the forefront of everything we do,” said Duncan Aldred, Global Vice President, Buick and GMC, to Carindigo. “Therefore, we’re very pleased, but not surprised, that Buick finished first in the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study.”

One of the main reasons for the placement is the Buick Encore GX, which ranked highest in the small SUV segment of the study. 

These brands came up just short of the top spot on J.D. Power

Dodge came in second with 143 PP100 and Chevrolet came in third with 147 PP100. 

Dodge suffered a 4-point drop from last year’s score of 139 PP100, but the company still found a level of consistency that many other brands lacked. Despite this, none of its vehicles ranked highest in the individual car model segment awards. 

By contrast, Chevrolet won more of those awards than any other brand. (BMW came in second with four.) The Chevrolet Corvette was the highest ranking model overall with 101 PP100. At the same time, the Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Silverado HD, and Chevrolet Tahoe were also deemed the best of the best. 

Prospective car buyers should not ignore J.D. Power’s statements, but it should be noted that initial quality is only one aspect of a vehicle’s lifespan. Research into long-term reliability is also advised. 


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