Vehicles | September 1, 2021 9:02 am

In Two Years, This Truck Brand Went From 21st to 1st in JD Power’s Initial Quality Rankings

Meanwhile, Tesla moved a couple spots up from dead last

A profile view of a red Ram Trucks 1500 Rebel pickup sitting in the grass in front of a line of trees
Looking for a new pickup without the hassle? It might be time to give Ram a shot.

Every year, market research firm J.D. Power releases something called the Initial Quality Study. It’s one way of demonstrating the caliber of brand-new, off-the-lot vehicles from top automakers by measuring how many problems drivers experience during the first 90 days of ownership. Some brands are consistently near the top (in the last decade, Lexus has only fallen out of the top 10 twice and below the industry average once), others are consistently near the bottom (like Land Rover, which came in 27th out of 32 this year and is infamous for quality control issues). 

Then there’s the case of Ram Trucks, which spun off from Dodge into a pickup- and van-specific brand back in 2010. In this year’s J.D. Power rankings, not only did the truck maker rank first — beating out premium, multi-faceted brands like Lexus, Genesis and Porsche — it achieved that top spot after ranking 21st out of 32 brands just two years ago.

“Pickup trucks are not easy to build, [and] the Ram is loaded with content and lots of variations,” Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power, told Automotive News. “They have a pretty tough life, with demanding customers. To be No. 1, when all you do is build pickups, is really pretty impressive.”

While that is impressive, it’s also important to note that J.D. Power says the tech behind infotainment systems and smartphone connectivity is “the most problematic area for new-vehicle owners” and that premium brands have generally scored lower than mass-market brands in the last six years because higher-end automakers “generally equip their vehicles with more and more complex technology, which can cause problems for some owners.”

That might be why a brand like Ram, not necessarily leading in the tech department, reported 128 problems per 100 vehicles according to this survey, while a company like Tesla reported 231, putting it third to last just ahead of Audi (240) and Chrysler (251). 

Last year, Tesla scored dead last with 250 problems per 100 vehicles, but it should be noted that Elon Musk’s electric car company isn’t officially included in the ranking. 

“Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant J.D. Power permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required,” the company writes. “However, Tesla’s score was calculated based on a sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states.”

In terms of specific vehicles, Ram did not take home the top prize for the popular Large Light Duty Pickup category. That went to the Toyota Tundra. You can see the rest of the quality rankings here.