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February 19, 2021

Lexus Returns to Top of Vehicle Dependability, Kia is Now Highest Ranked Mainstream Brand

Lexus returned to the top of the U.S. J.D. Power vehicle dependability study after losing the top spot last year. Meanwhile, Kia is the highest ranked mainstream brand, and third overall.

According to J.D. Power, overall long-term reliability hit a record level in the 32-year history of the Vehicle Dependability Study, averaging 121 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed, compared with 134 problems per 100 vehicles in last year’s report.

Across all brands, Porsche ranked second behind Lexus. The German brand’s 911 model took top honors for fewest reported problems for the second time in three years.

Toyota placed fourth while Cadillac and Buick tied at No. 5 with 100 reported problems per 100 vehicles. Hyundai, Genesis—the highest ranked brand for dependability last year—Lincoln, Acura, and BMW filled out the top 10.

In addition to the top 10 brands, Chevrolet and Mitsubishi did better than the industry average, with Mazda right at the average. Aside from Kia, other brands above the industry average that showed strong improvement were Cadillac, Acura, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi.

While most auto owners are not seeing their vehicles break down or fall apart at the three-year mark, owners complained of inconsistent or underperforming on-board technology as the main issue.

Of the eight problem categories covered in the study, all showed improvement, led by exterior and driving experience. The audio, communication, entertainment, and navigation category showed minimal improvement and remained the category with the most problems reported.

Lexus stood atop the rankings, which included 32 brands (see complete ranking below), for the ninth time in 10 years, with 81 problems reported per 100 vehicles.

Sitting at the bottom of the rankings were Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, and Land Rover, which together averaged more than two reported problems per vehicle.

Volkswagen had the biggest performance decline across all brands, slipping from sixth overall and 113 problems per 100 vehicles last year to 23rd this year with 163 problems per 100 vehicles. Only Chrysler, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, and Land Rover placed lower in this year’s ranking.

Honda also saw some significant slippage, dropping to the 22nd position (145 per 100) from the 14th slot (139 per 100) last year.

Both VW and Honda were hampered by model launches: the Accord and Odyssey in the case of Honda and the Atlas and Tiguan for VW.

The study measures the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles over the past 12 months. The 2021 study is based on responses from 33,251 original owners of 2018 model year vehicles after three years of ownership. Responses were collected from July through November of last year.

The study, which has used the current format since 2015, is slated for a redesign next year as J.D. Power strives to account for the amount of technology that has come to market.

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