Volvo, Audi Hammered in New Car Quality Study

J.D. Power, the research firm that has posted car quality surveys for decades, has issued its 2020 Initial Quality Study. The study looks at problems people report in the first 90 days of ownership of 2020 vehicles. The yardstick is the number of problems per 100 vehicles for each brand. Several brands did very poorly. Among them were luxury brands Volvo and Audi, which market themselves as among the best-made cars sold in America.

The industry average for brands was 166 problems per 100 vehicles. A total of 87,782 people were polled, based on nine categories: “infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance (new for 2020); interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate.” The top brand was Dodge, with a figure of 136. It was followed closely by Kia at 138.

Volvo’s number was 210. Audi’s was 225.

Audi, one of the luxury brands owned by Volkswagen, is often considered a direct rival to Mercedes and BMW. In the United States, its sales run just behind these two other luxury brands. Because of the price of its cars, there is a presumption of high quality, and it is a wound that an important piece of research would undermine the perception so seriously. As is the case with all luxury brands, it sells a wide array of models, including sedans, coupes, crossovers, sport utility vehicles and electric and hybrid models. Its total model count in the United States is more than 50.

Volvo’s appeal to U.S. consumers is much narrower. It has a decades-long reputation for safety. The brand nearly disappeared because of falling sales. After a period when Ford owned by, the company ended up in the hands of Zhejiang Geely. It has been a poor bargain in America. The company sold only 108,227 cars there last year, which made it a niche brand, at best. It sells only 10 basic models in the country.

Will the J.D. Power conclusions hurt the sales of Audi and Volvo? It is so widely followed and respected, the answer is almost certainly yes.