DETROIT—Dodge became the first domestic brand to claim the top spot in J.D. Power's 34th annual report card on new-vehicle quality.
Tesla unofficially finished last in its debut appearance in the study, while Genesis was the top-ranked luxury brand for the fourth year in a row.
Following back-to-back podium sweeps by Korean brands, Detroit auto makers claimed three of the top four slots in the closely watched Initial Quality Study, released June 24. The study measures the number of problems reported during the first 90 days of ownership.
The industry average—166 problems per 100 vehicles—was much higher than last year's average of 93 problems per 100 vehicles. This was because the study was redesigned this year for the first time since 2013, adding questions about a number of technologies that didn't exist in prior surveys.
"The higher problem levels we see in this year's study don't mean vehicle quality has worsened; rather, the redesigned study asks additional questions that allow owners to cite more of the problems that they are experiencing," Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
Dodge, which tied with Kia for first place with 136 problems per 100 vehicles, was a surprise winner. The five models surveyed were Challenger, Charger, Journey, Grand Caravan and Durango. The brand, which landed in the top 10 last year for the first time, has not introduced a redesigned or new vehicle since the 2011 model year. Older models give brands several advantages: Vehicles aren't saddled with as many connected features that typically drag down scores, and engineers have had more time to fix whatever problems do exist.
Still, Sargent said Dodge's performance can be attributed to more than just an aging lineup.
"They've done a really good job improving their quality," Sargent told Automotive News. "It's not a fluke that they did well."
He cited widely praised technology such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' UConnect infotainment system.
Another FCA brand, Ram, tied Chevrolet for third place, with 141 problems per 100 vehicles.
Chevy boasted the highest-rated model, with owners reporting just 103 problems per 100 vehicles with the Sonic.