J.D. Power’s Dependability Study is as good of a rough gauge as any if you’re in the market for a car and want a reliable one. Whether your new Lexus actually turns out to be reliable is a more random result, but it almost certainly has a higher chance of being reliable than compared to, say, a new Volvo or Audi, because Volvo and Audi never seem to fare all that well in these studies.
The 2023 version of the Dependability Study came out Thursday, and Lexus reclaimed its throne on top after being handily beaten last year by Kia. Kia is third this year, with Genesis taking second, Buick taking fourth, and Chevy taking fifth.
Meanwhile, Porsche, which is usually near the top, suffered a mighty fall, finishing in the bottom half of the chart for 2023. The rankings, which show the number of problems (broadly defined) per 100 vehicles:
As for what might explain some of the movement (Volvo, for example, improved dramatically compared to last year), it might come down to the tech and infotainment, because J.D. Power switched things up a little last year, as “dependability,” in the context of the study, means a lot more than just, “Does my car turn on?” Here’s how J.D. Power describes it:
The 3-year-old vehicles measured in this year’s study were first examined in the 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study. Six of the 10 highest-ranked brands in the 2020 IQS are among the 10 highest-ranked brands in this year’s VDS. Some of the most deteriorated areas from 90 days to three years of ownership are starter battery failures, outdated maps, Android Auto/Apple Car Play and voice recognition problems. The increase in problems in the technology area shows the importance that over-the-air updates can play in correcting issues with audio systems and keeping the information in them up to date.
The study was redesigned in 2022 to include features and technology that are available in current vehicles. It now covers 184 specific problem areas across nine major vehicle categories: climate; driving assistance; driving experience; exterior; features/controls/displays; infotainment; interior; powertrain; and seats.
J.D. Power also says that Tesla’s score was included in the industry calculation, but not officially ranked because it “does not allow J.D. Power access to owner information in the states where that permission is required by law,” which is perfectly on brand for Tesla. Had it been ranked, in any case, it would’ve been fifth-worst.
It should also be noted that Ford, who has had quality issues for years now, seems correctly rated, as does Lincoln, and don’t get me started on Land Rover or Jaguar. Indeed, many luxury brands do poorly in this study every year, which makes you wonder what you’re really paying for when you pony up for an Audi.
As buying advice, the study isn’t perfect (Consumer Reports reviews are the only independent reviews in America; check them out if you’re looking at specific models), but the J.D. Power study is a handy (and usually true) guide to a brand’s general reputation. I’m always impressed, for example, by how well Mitsubishi usually does, for as much shit as people give Mitsubishi. Allow yourself to consider a Mirage.