Special Report

America's Best and Worst New Cars

Courtesy of Dodge

On June 24, auto industry review site J.D. Power released its annual Initial Quality Study (IQS) for 2020.

The survey, which measures the number of reported problems new vehicle owners experience within the first three months of ownership, found that owners of a 2020 model experienced an average of 166 problems per 100 vehicles in that time frame. However, individual brands ranged from 136 to over 220 problems per 100 new vehicles. It should be noted that J.D. Power redesigned their survey this year, so all automakers saw an increase in the number of problems reported.

We listed all 31 brands ranked from the fewest reported problems to the most. Quarterly U.S. sales figures data came from goodcarbadcar.net, an aggregator of auto sales figures. The IQS is based on a survey of 87,282 purchasers and lessees of new 2020 model year cars.

In general, American brands scored better than the industry average, while a number of European brands had among the highest rates of reported problems.

Somewhat surprisingly, luxury brands were more likely to have problems because they come equipped with complex technology that is more prone to malfunction, according to J.D. Power. Infotainment technology, J.D. Power said, was the most likely category to give rise to complaints.

Tesla was included in the study for the first time and had more reported problems per 100 vehicles than the worst-ranked brand on the list. However, J.D. Power cautioned that the electric car maker’s score should not be compared to others because it didn’t provide data for some states.

Click here to see America’s best and worst new cars

1 (tie). Dodge
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 136 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 90 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 401,027
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -19.8% (110,517 to 88,656)
> Parent Company: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Dodge, which tied with Kia for first place, became the first U.S. brand to achieve a No. 1 ranking in the 34 years of the J.D. Power initial quality study. Dodge, which had 136 problems per 100 new vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership, climbed to the top from an eighth-place finish (tied with Lexus) in 2019. It managed to reach the pinnacle even though none of its models were rated best in their category. The Dodge Challenger was second in the large car category, and the Dodge Durango was second in upper midsize SUV.

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1 (tie). Kia
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 136 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 70 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 615,962
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: +1.0% (136,596 to 137,945)
> Parent Company: Hyundai Motor Group

For the sixth year in a row, Kia parked in the top spot for the study, this time tied with Dodge. The South Korean car manufacturer had 136 problems per 100 new vehicles. Kia can brag of having four models ranked No. 1 in their category. The Kia Forte, rated the best compact car, and the Kia Soul, the most reliable small SUV, were both in the top 10 of all cars. The Kia Sorrento was the best upper midsize SUV, and the Kia Sedona was the top minivan.

3 (tie). Chevrolet
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 141 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 85 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 1,919,826
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -4.9% (451,742 to 429,529)
> Parent Company: General Motors

Leading Chevrolet’s leap to third place (tied with Ram) from sixth in 2019 was the Chevrolet Sonic, which was named the “highest initial quality model” of all the vehicles that were rated. Chevrolet registered 141 problems per 100 new vehicles. The Sonic was also the top small car, besting the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Rio. The Chevrolet Malibu was the highest rated midsize car, ahead of the Ford Fusion and the Kia Optima.

3 (tie). Ram
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 141 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 105 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 706,496
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: +2.5% (137,013 to 140,486)
> Parent Company: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Ram, the truck division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, tied with Chevrolet for third place, leaping from No. 21 in 2019. This year Ram had 141 problems per 100 new vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. Its significantly improved showing was built on the redesigned 1500 half-ton pickup and an upgraded lineup of heavy duty trucks, Yahoo said.

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5. Genesis
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 142 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 63 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 20,989
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -5.9% (4,203 to 3,955)
> Parent Company: Hyundai Motor Group

Although Genesis was dethroned this year as the most reliable brand, its score of 142 was enough to keep it in the top five and to make it the highest rated premium nameplate in the study. This is the fourth year it has led that category. The Genesis G70 luxury sport sedan was rated the top compact premium car for the second successive year.

6. Mitsubishi
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 148 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 121 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 114,542
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -15.5% (42,070 to 35,563)
> Parent Company: Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance

Mitsubishi made the biggest improvement in its ranking, moving up 24 spots to sixth place after coming in at No. 30 in 2019. That surge was enough to make it the top Japanese automaker in the study, with 148 problems per 100 new vehicles. The only model that was recognized was the Outlander Sport, which tied with the Buick Encore and the Chevrolet Trax for third place in the small SUV category.

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7. Buick
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 150 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 92 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 188,931
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -34.7% (51,865 to 33,870)
> Parent Company: General Motors

Rolling in at No. 7, Buick moved up three spots from its 10th-place showing in 2019. Contributing to its better-than-industry-average score of 150 was General Motors’ Yantai Dongyue 2 assembly plant in China, which produces the Buick Envision. J.D. Power singled out the plant for producing vehicles with the fewest defects or malfunctions. The Buick Encore tied with the Chevrolet Trax and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport for third place in the small SUV category.

8. GMC
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 151 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 94 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 558,089
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -5.5% (125,579 to 118,718)
> Parent Company: General Motors

Moving up two notches from 2019, GMC grabbed eighth place with 151 problems per 100 new vehicles. That score put GMC above the industry average for the first time since 2016. It helped give Detroit automakers their best collective showing, compared with imports, in the history of the J.D. Power study.

9. Volkswagen
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 152 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 113 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 352,515
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -12.6% (85,872 to 75,065)
> Parent Company: Volkswagen Group

Volkswagen catapulted itself into the ninth spot, from 27th in 2019, with 152 problems per 100 new vehicles. The German automaker scored above the industry average for the first time since 2017. The Volkswagen Jetta placed third in the compact car category, behind the Kia Forte and the Hyundai Elantra.

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10. Hyundai
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 153 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 71 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 672,061
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -11.3% (147,585 to 130,875)
> Parent Company: Hyundai Motor Group

Rounding out the top 10 was Hyundai, which had 153 problems per 100 new vehicles. The marque dropped from third place in 2019. The Hyundai Tucson led the compact SUV category, and the Hyundai Veloster tied with the Mini Cooper for first place in the compact sporty car category.

11. Jeep
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 155 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 100 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 893,155
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -14.2% (212,804 to 182,667)
> Parent Company: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Jeep made a solid advance in 2020 to 11th place with 155 problems per 100 new vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. In 2019, Jeep was much lower in the ranking, at No. 18. And this year Jeep finished better than the industry average for the first time in years.

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12. Lexus
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 159 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 90 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 287,666
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -15.6% (66,791 to 56,345)
> Parent Company: Toyota Motor Corp.

With the help of a good showing by the Lexus GX, Lexus landed in the 12th spot on the JD Power Initial Quality Survey for 2020. The GX was rated the top midsize premium SUV. Lexus had a total score of 159 problems per 100 new vehicles. In 2019, Lexus was ranked higher, at No. 9.

13. Nissan
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 161 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 86 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 1,128,485
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -30.0% (331,536 to 232,048)
> Parent Company: Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance

Nissan tumbled to 13th place in 2020 after a seventh place finish in 2019. It slipped six places even though three of its models were top rated in their respective categories. The Nissan Maxima was best in the large car category. The Nissan Murano was the leader in the midsize SUV group, and the Nissan Armada was No. 1 in the large SUV category. Overall, the brand had 161 problems per 100 new vehicles.

14. Cadillac
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 162 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 100 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 150,577
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -15.8% (35,996 to 30,323)
> Parent Company: General Motors

Cadillac has bounced around in the ranking in recent years, some years landing above the industry average and some years landing below. This year is an up cycle with Cadillac’s 162 problems per 100 new vehicles beating the industry average of 166. With four models leading their categories, Cadillac finished 14th overall. The Cadillac CT5 was first in midsize premium car, the CT6 was best in upper midsize premium car, the XT4 was the leader in compact premium SUV and the Escalade was No. 1 in large premium SUV.

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15. Infiniti
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 173 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 101 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 108,949
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -25.5% (34,315 to 25,556)
> Parent Company: Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance

Infiniti rose to No. 15 in this year’s J.D. Power rankings, from No. 19 last year. For 2020, analysts found 173 issues per 100 vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. The luxury Nissan brand recently announced a reboot, withhere future models will sharinge the architecture of the Nissan line while still retaining their premium features and finishes.

16 (tie). Ford
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 174 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 83 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 2,215,592
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -12.3% (557,884 to 489,051)
> Parent Company: Ford Motor Co.

Ford dropped quite a few notches in this year’s initial quality survey. After ranking fourth in the 2019 study, the Detroit-based auto giant sank to No. 16 this year. J.D. Power found 174 problems per 100 vehicles this year. Still, Ford was the highest rated brand in several categories: midsize sporty car (Mustang), midsize pickup (Ranger) and large heavy duty pickup (Ford Super Duty).

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16 (tie). MINI
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 174 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 107 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 32,496
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -41.2% (8,905 to 5,236)
> Parent Company: BMW Group

In the compact sporty car category, the MINI Cooper tied for best initial quality this year with the Hyundai Veloster. Overall the MINI brands had 174 issues per 100 vehicles during the initial 90 days of ownership. Owned by BMW, the MINI family includes the Countryman and Clubman models. The company saw a huge sales drop in the first quarter, down 41% compared with the year-ago period.

18. BMW
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 176 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 102 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 313,089
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -15.9% (73,888 to 62,152)
> Parent Company: BMW Group

BMW received two model-level awards in the initial quality study this year. The BMW 8 Series and BMX X6 ranked highest in their categories. Overall, the BMW brand ranks in the middle of J.D. Power’s initial quality list. The analysts found 176 problems reported per 100 vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership.

19. Honda
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 177 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 98 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 1,387,836
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -18.9% (333,402 to 270,253)
> Parent Company: Honda Motor Co.

Tokyo-based Honda had 177 problems per 100 vehicles in the initial quality review. But the Honda Odyssey ranked second behind the Kia Sedona in the minivan category. J.D. Power said the Honda Ridgeline also did well, ranking third for initial quality behind the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado in the midsize pickup category. Honda’s first quarters sales were down nearly 19%, year over year.

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20. Toyota
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 177 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 90 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 2,047,683
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -7.9% (476,925 to 439,402)
> Parent Company: Toyota Motor Corp.

Toyota slipped a bit from 2019 to 2020, falling from the 10th highest-ranked brand overall to No. 20 this year. But if you drill down into J.D. Power’s individual categories for initial quality, you find some strong Toyota showings. The Tundra was the highest-ranked vehicle in the large light duty pickup category, beating the GMC Sierra and the best-selling Ford F-150. And Toyota models were among the top 3 in these categories: small SUV, upper midsize SUV and large SUV.

21. Lincoln
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 182 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 84 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 112,795
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: +2.8% (24,874 to 25,562)
> Parent Company: Ford Motor Co.

While Lincoln’s overall initial quality rating is mediocre, it has standouts in several categories. The Lincoln MKZ is the second-highest ranked brand in the midsize premium category, while the Lincoln Nautilus is second in the midsize premium SUV group. The Lincoln Navigator is ranked second among large premium SUVs; the Cadillac Escalade is tops here.

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22. Mazda
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 184 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 94 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 275,389
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -4.5% (70,831 to 67,670)
> Parent Company: Mazda Motor Corp.

Mazda took a tumble from last year’s initial quality rankings, when it was the 13th highest-rated brand. In 2020, the Japanese brand is the 22nd highest rated. J.D. Power reported 184 issues per 100 Mazda vehicles this year.

23. Acura
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 185 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 110 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 149,531
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -21.6% (36,385 to 28,531)
> Parent Company: Honda Motor Co.

Acura has a strong contender in the small premium car category. Its ILX was ranked second for initial quality in the group, behind the Audi A3. Overall, the Japanese brand falls into the bottom pack, with 185 problems reported per 100 vehicles, according to J.D. Power.

24. Porsche
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 186 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 96 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 58,528
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -20.2% (15,024 to 11,984)
> Parent Company: Volkswagen Group

Ten years ago, Porsche was No. 1 in the initial quality rankings. And it remained near the top in the mid-2000s. The German sports car manufacturer began to slip in the ratings last year, and this year falls into the bottom tier. J.D. Power found 186 problems per 100 Porsche vehicles during the first 90 days. In the large premium car category, the Porsche Panamera was ranked third, behind the BMW 8 and 7 Series.

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25. Subaru
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 187 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 113 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 673,954
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -16.7% (156,754 to 130,591)
> Parent Company: Subaru Corp.

While Subaru doesn’t do so hot in the annual J.D. Power initial quality rankings, it excels when it comes to customer loyalty. Once again this year, the Japanese brand ranks near the bottom in terms of initial quality, with 187 problems per 100 vehicles. Subaru aficionados don’t seem to mind, however. The brand was the overall No. 1 in the 2019 J.D. Power Brand Loyalty Study.

26. Chrysler
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 189 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 113 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 125,326
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -5.2% (31,591 to 29,945)
> Parent Company: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Chrysler is the lowest American brand in the initial quality rankings, with 189 issues per 100 vehicles. That puts the Michigan-based companybrand 6th from the bottom this year, and well below the other “Big 3” main brands, General Motors and Ford. But in the same corporate family, the Dodge brand makes up for Chrysler’s quality shortcomings. Dodge tied for the No. 1 spot in this year’s rankings.

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27. Jaguar
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 190 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 130 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 00
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: +!Unexpected End of Formula% (10,222 to 00)
> Parent Company: Tata Motors

In releasing its 2020 rankings, J.D. Power notes that premium brands typically rate below average. The issue is that more expensive cars typically come with more complex technology, which can cause problems for some new owners in the first 90 days. Jaguar is no exception, with a reported 109 issues per 100 vehicles this year. But the Indian-owned British car maker improved from last year’s rankings, when it rated dead last.

Despite its overall poor quality ranking, Jaguar bested the small premium SUV category in the study. The Jaguar E-Pace was the highest-ranked vehicle in this class.

28. Mercedes-Benz
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 202 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 94 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 348,727
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -4.3% (78,667 to 75,265)
> Parent Company: Daimler AG

The iconic Mercedes-Benz has tumbled mightily on the initial quality scale, according to the survey. In 2010, the German luxury brand had the third highest J.D. Power Initial Quality ranking. But this year, it’s fourth from the bottom of the list, with 202 problems per 100 vehicles. The company did excel in one category, compact premium cars. In that category, the Mercedes-Benz C Class tied for the second highest ranked vehicle, behind the Genesis G70.

29. Volvo
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 210 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 114 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 105,654
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -11.7% (22,058 to 19,485)
> Parent Company: Zhejiang Geely Holding Group

For the last few years, Volvo hasn’t fared well in this annual initial quality study. This year, 210 problems were found in the first 90 days per 100 vehicles. A decade ago, Volvo fared much better, with only 109 problems per 100 new vehicles. This was near the industry average in 2010. It should be noted that J.D. Power redesigned their survey this year, so all automakers saw an increase in the number of problems reported.

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30. Audi
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 225 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 106 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: 217,367
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: -14.0% (48,115 to 41,371)
> Parent Company: Volkswagen Group

Over time, Audi’s initial quality has dropped, according to the J.D. Power study. Ten years ago, the German luxury brand ranked near the industry average (at that time 109 problems per 100 vehicles). But this year, Audi is second to last, with 225 issues reported in the first 90 days of ownership for 2020 models. The industry average for 2020 was 166. One bright spot: the Audi A3 is ranked highest in the small premium car segment, besting the Acura ILX and the BMW 2 Series.

31. Land Rover
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2020): 228 (industry avg. – 166)
> Problems in first 90 days per 100 vehicles (2019): 123 (industry avg. – 93)
> U.Q. sales, 12 months through Q1 2020: N/A
> 1-year change in sales, Q1 2019 to Q1 2020: N/A
> Parent Company: Tata Motors

Land Rover must dread the annual release of the J.D. Power quality survey. For the past decade, the luxury SUV brand has ranked near the bottom or dead last, as it did again this year. The survey found 228 problems per 100 Land Rover vehicles sold, much higher than the industry average of 166 problems per 100 vehicles.

Land Rover can take some small comfort in that fact that Tesla fared worse, with 250 problems per 100 vehicles. This year is the first time J.D. Power has included the electric car company, but it declined to officially rank it because Tesla wouldn’t provide registration data for some states, making an accurate survey impossible.

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