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FCA: good and bad news from J.D. Power (updated)

by Bill Cawthon on

Ram was one of the top ten brands in the latest J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study™ (VDS), which covers the first three years of ownership.

FCA’s truck brand jumped six spots in the rankings to tie with Acura. Ram owners reported fewer problems with their trucks than last year, while Acura owners reported more problems.

Ram-Power-Dependability-Web

Chrysler, Jeep, Ram, and Fiat all improved, though only Ram was rated above average.

The Fiat 500 surprised many by garnering the top ranking vehicle in the City Car segment, pushing up Fiat a full five spots, with the largest reduction in problems of any brand.

The Chrysler Town & Country outperformed the average in the minivan segment, but Toyota Sienna took first place. The Chrysler did outscore the Toyota on “Body and Interior Dependability” and “Feature and Accessory Dependability.”

Dodge fell to the bottom, just behind Ford, and was the only FCA brand to have more reported problems this year. This is ironic, as the word “dependability” was created specifically to describe Dodge (Brothers).

Update: If you want to assign blame, TrueDelta research clearly implicates the 1.4-liter Dodge Dart, which pegs the needle at “most trips” for service among 2013 Dodges. Darts without the 1.4, Chargers, and Journeys had an average score. There were not enough 2013 Durangos to judge, but the 2012s and 2014s were roughly average; Caravans were on the good side of average.

Jeep easily beat upscale rival Land Rover; and while Dodge was slightly lower than Ford, chances are the range from Land Rover to Dodge were all in a statistical dead heat.  The real winner this year, in some ways, was General Motors, which has focused on quality to the point that Chevrolet beat Honda, GMC beat Ram, and Buick beat Toyota — and came in #3 behind Lexus and Porsche. No GM brand fell below average, and Cadillac could at least boast of beating Volvo, Volkswagen, and several Japanese and Korean brands.

J.D. Power 2016 US Dependability Study: Problems per 100 vehicles
Rank FCA Brands 2016 2015 Change Change in Rank
8 (tie) Ram 129 134 -5 +6
22 Chrysler 165 173 -8 +1
26 Fiat 171 273 -102 +5
28 Jeep 181 197 -16 +1
32 Dodge 208 192 +16 -5

This year’s study tapped 33,560 original owners of 2013 model-year vehicles, and covers problems from the past 12 months. The study was conducted late in 2015.

Overall, the average number of problems rose to 1.5 per vehicle, up slightly from last year; J.D. Power blamed in-cabin electronics. One fifth of all problems were due to infotainment systems, especially voice recognition and navigation. Familiarity doesn’t seem to help; J.D. Power’s Renee Stephens wrote that usability problems customers reported in the first 90 days of ownership are still an issue three years later. This problem may is likely to get worse as automakers continue to load more of this technology into their vehicles.

Power-2016-VDS-Web
Full study from J.D. Power

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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