When consumers are asked why they pick one car above another, several factors are almost always present. Often at the top of the list is price. Gas mileage is often another. The conversation quickly moves to what features people want. Overarching all of this, however, is whether a car is considered well made. Research firms probe that differently, but usually, the terms come down to “reliability” and “quality.”
The gold standard of research about reliability is the J.D. Power U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, the 2021 version of which has just been released. This study has reached its 32nd year. The goal of the research is to find out how many problems car brands have per hundred vehicles owned. In the dependability survey, researchers looked at that factor for cars that are three years old. That means this study looks at 2018 models.
The survey covers 177 potential problems. They are grouped into these large categories: “audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN); engine/transmission; exterior; interior; features/controls/displays (FCD); driving experience; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and seats.”
The good news for car buyers is that the industry’s dependability continues to improve. Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said, “Today’s three-year-old vehicles are of higher quality and more dependable than in previous years.”
The industry average for the 2018 models in the study based on problems per 100 cars was 121. The U.S. car brand with the worst performance was Chrysler, now part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. Other U.S. brands owned by the company include Jeep, Dodge, and RAM, which sells only pick-ups. Chrysler’s score was 166.
Chrysler is among America’s oldest car brands, founded by Walter Chrysler in 1925. In 1998 it made a disastrous merge with Daimler-Benz, the luxury car company, to create DaimlerChrysler AG.
Chrysler’s model line has become a shadow of what it once was. Among its models is a minivan, which is a segment of the car industry created by former Chrysler CEO Lee Iaccoca. Chrysler offers three minivan products–the Pacifica, Pacifica Hybrid, and the Voyager. The base price of the Pacifica is $35,045. The base price of the Voyager is $26,985. Ironically, the Pacifica has received strong reviews from car research sites Edmunds, KBB, Motor Trend, and U.S. News.
The Chrysler 300 is the company’s aged sedan, which competes in the dwindling sedan market. The move by American drivers to SUVs, crossovers, and pick-ups has besieged this segment of the industry. The 300 was first launched in 2005. Its sales have fallen apart recently. Chrysler sold 16,653 of them last year against over 143,000 in 2006. The 300 tends to get fairly poor reviews from auto research sites.
The Chrysler brand’s sales have dropped enough that its future has to be in doubt. The J.D.Power rating does not help that.