Chrysler Ruins a Good Thing by Slipping in J.D. Power’s Dependability Rankings

J.D. Power recently released this year’s edition of its U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. The market research company analyzes the answers of over 30,000 owners of more than 150 models of 2018 cars, trucks, and SUVs. J.D. Power’s findings serve as a benchmark for the industry, showing manufacturers how to design their vehicles better and affecting brands’ short-term sales. Chrysler surely hopes that doesn’t prove to be true in its case.

After performing well in previous years, the brand found itself near the bottom of the list alongside other noteworthy companies. But J.D. Power‘s 2021 study provides better news for those at the top of the rankings. 

Chrysler’s tumble in the J.D. Power dependability rankings

Chrysler’s reputation for low reliability has existed for some time, and there’s plenty of evidence to back up that claim. There’s even a website, ChryslerProblems.com, discussing the most common technological and mechanical problems and cataloging the company’s legal challenges. Chrysler has been hit with 10 lawsuits since 2013, and only one has been dismissed at the time of this writing. The most recent involves faulty active head restraint systems that deploy randomly, placing drivers in danger. Chrysler recalled over 500,000 vehicles in 2013 for the same reason, but the problem persists. 

Chrysler rebounded enough in J.D. Power’s 2019 rankings to earn the most improved brand for reducing the problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) by 65 in a year. But that didn’t last long. By 2020, the automaker was the second-worst brand in dependability, propped up by lowly Land Rover.  

How did other brands fare in the study?

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J.D. Power’s study declares that Lexus (81 PP100), Porsche (86 PP100), and Kia (97 PP100) the three most dependable auto brands in America. Lexus ranks the highest overall for the ninth time in 10 years. The Porsche 911 is the highest-ranked model in the study, the second time in three years it has earned that distinction. The three least dependable brands are Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, and Land Rover. 

One notable brand that isn’t officially involved in the study is Tesla. The EV maker isn’t ranked because it didn’t grant J.D. Power permission to survey its owners in the 15 states where it’s required. One of the excluded states was California, where Tesla is based and has its biggest market. Despite that, J.D. Power received 756 responses from Tesla owners from 35 other states. The unofficial score is 176 PP100, which is 10 points less than Chrysler and the fourth-worst brand in the rankings, but Tesla still topped J.D. Power‘s 2020 APEAL survey, which ranks owners’ emotional attachment to a brand. 

Overall, vehicle dependability improved about 10 percent over the previous year. Part of that was due to lower vehicle use during the pandemic. All eight of the problem categories — exterior, features/controls/displays, seats, interior, the driving experience, audio/communication/entertainment/navigation, HVAC, and engine/transmission — that J.D. Power tracks also showed improvement. 

Is J.D. Power a reliable source?

As bad as the prognosis is for Chrysler, there is some question about J.D. Power’s studies’ reliability. 30,000 car owners is still a small sample of the driving population, so it’s difficult for their responses to speak for the entire nation. And though the survey’s focus on the driving experience is worthwhile, it doesn’t always take other important aspects, such as maintenance costs, into account. On the flip side, it’s odd that a survey about dependability would concern itself with the quality of vehicles’ entertainment options.   

It’s best to use these types of rankings as a guide for your next car purchase, not as an indisputable sacred text. Either way, Chrysler will undoubtedly hope to get a much better rating next year.