JD Power released its annual Vehicle Dependability Study, and the usual suspects are at the bottom of the charts.
Every year, JD Power surveys tens of thousands of original owners about their experiences and problems with three-year-old vehicles they have owned since new. And every year, brands from the Fiat-Chrysler alliance clog up the bottom of the list, so we are going to lump them together to get a look at a few more brands that are causing their owners headaches with the ownership experience.
GMC gets dragged into this 10 worst list despite improving its score from 156 PP100 in 2017 to 151 in this year's study, but they just couldn't keep pace with the industry standards, which saw them fall from 14 to number 18 in the brand rankings and from above average to below average (which was 156 PP100 last year and 142 in 2018). Looking back at what changed for GMC, 2015 marked the first model year of the GMC Canyon's return to North America and an all-new Sierra HD line, so those first-year teething problems no doubt caused some problems.
Everybody kind of expects Volkswagen to be at the bottom of the reliability charts, so it's no surprise to see them here ranked 19th of the 31 brands in the list. Volkswagen actually improved its score from 164 to 157, and jumped up one spot on the brand rankings, but it seems about par for the course for VW to land slightly below average. It certainly didn't help that one of their most popular lines, the Golf and GTI, launched an entirely new generation (Mk 7) and advanced MQB platform as 2015 models in North America, not to mention a new diesel powertrain in their bestselling Jetta.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I remember the days when Acura competed with Lexus for top spot in the Vehicle Dependability Study and were a consistent top 10. Oh wait, that was as recently as 2016, when they were ranked eighth with just 129 PP100, but last year they dropped to 22nd with 167, and this year only clawed their way back to 20th, accounting for the years in which they launched a brand new 2014 MDX and 2015 TLX respectively.
Another brand that everyone loves to slag because they had horrendous reliability in the '80s, Jaguar is still struggling to build reliable cars today, even if they are as beautiful as just about anything on the road. However, just being on the list is a comeback of sorts, as Jaguar was excluded form the 2016 VDS due to small sample size, meaning they didn't sell enough cars in 2013 to be statistically valid. With the spectacular F-Type launching as a 2014 MY and giving a big boost to the brand, they made a splash coming back in the top 10 last year, but in this year's 2018 VDS dropped back to 20th, tied with Acura at 159 PP100.
With Volvo the 22nd ranked brand in the list, we are finally cracking into the actual 10 worst brands, and we can all point our fingers at another major vehicle launch in the 2015 XC90 and the return of the brand to relevance with an all-new architecture and challenging new infotainment system. Although I am not an owner, I can verify issues with Volvo's Sensus freezing up, and the fabric seat release handle had ripped clean off in the press car I drove. Owners fessed up to 162 problems per 100 vehicles, six more than 2017's 154.
While some people view Subaru with rose-colored glasses as a brand with impeccable durability and reliability, its infotainment system of this era sucked and 2015 was the year it introduced Subaru EyeSight and its suite of driver aids and safety systems in North American products. While Subaru may rank well in Consumer Reports ratings, something well worth considering, for the past few years it has consistently scored near the 167 PP100 it received in this year's edition, landing at 25th in the brand rankings.
Holy crap, they still sell Mitsubishis in North America? I'd completely forgotten about them… oh wait, this was three years ago, but hey, looks like they are still selling cars in the US to this day. Not sure why anyone buys them, and it sure isn't for reliability, but I guess they have a good warranty or something. That's good, because with 173 PP100 they land in 26th or 6th worst among all brands, so you'll be getting to know your warranty process pretty well.
Cadillac has certainly fallen from its glory days atop the VDS rankings, and was hit especially hard this past year, going from 152 PP100 last year to 186 this year, one of the worst drops of any brand not in the FCA group. Problems with a new Escalade launched in 2015 no doubt factored into the score and sent it tumbling from just above average at 15 all the way down to 27, 5th worst among all brands, but Cadillac has been sliding steadily since the introduction of its CUE infotainment system.
Second last on our 10 Worst list and second last overall is practically royalty when it comes to unreliability. Land Rover actually showed some signs of improvement last year with, um, just 178 PP100, but breaking the double-century barrier with 204 PP100 in the 2018 VDS, helped along no doubt by the launch of the popular Discovery Sport model back to stereotypical British reliability.
Poor FCA. You have to feel for them, no doubt trying to build cars that don't simply fall apart the moment you drive off the lot, but the bottom 10 is a mix and match of the five or six Fiat-Chrysler conglomerate brands, shuffled based on who launched what three years prior. Chrysler actually looked respectable in 18th for the 2017 study, its 159 PP100 just below average and well out of the 10 worst, probably because it had no new product. In 2015 it launched an all-new Chrysler 200 and refreshed the ancient 300, and dropped to 211 problems per 100 vehicles (52 worse) to land dead last in JD Power's 2018 Dependability Study brand rankings.
Fiat was actually the most improved of any brand in terms of problems per 100, reducing its PP100 from a don't-even-go-there 298 to a well-if-the-payments-are-low-enough 192. That's an improvement of 106! Rounding out the FCA group's brands were: Jeep in 28th with 188 PP100 (fourth-worst), Ram in 24th with 167 (eighth-worst), Dodge in 23rd with 166 (ninth-worst). To end with a bit of good news, let's pay our respects to those who escaped the bottom 10 spots on the list. Ford improved from 204 in 2016 and 183 in 2017 to 152 this year to escape the cellar, Nissan from 170 to 133, and kudos to Infiniti, 203 last year to 120 in 2018, going from third-last to fourth-best in one model year!