The Ram pickup brand bested rivals in a J.D. Power quality study, showing that owner Stellantis is gaining traction among vehicle owners in the lucrative U.S. truck segment.
Ram trucks and vans had the fewest amount of customer quality complaints after three months of ownership, according to J.D. Power’s annual Initial Quality Study released Tuesday.
Stellantis’ Dodge brand ranked second and Toyota’s Lexus had the third-best score.
The company’s former chief executive officer, Sergio Marchionne, created the Ram brand over a decade ago after leading the Detroit automaker, then known as Chrysler Group LLC, out of bankruptcy.
Marchionne separated the automaker’s trucks from Dodge, making the latter a performance brand for muscle cars and SUVs. Ram redesigned the trucks in 2019 with an iPad-sized touchscreen that juiced sales.
“For Ram, it’s been a lot of small improvements,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “Ram has not typically had the greatest reputation for quality, so getting it right is a top priority for them and they’ve done a great job.”
Ram trucks claimed 27% of the U.S. full-size pickup market in the first half of this year, up from 21% five years ago, according to Cox Automotive.
Vehicles’ information and entertainment systems continue to be the biggest source of early customer complaints, J.D. Power said.
That’s often because smartphones don’t seamlessly connect to center console screens, especially with wireless setups. The issues are largely caused by software design, not manufacturing flaws, according to Sargent.
“It’s really around the software and the way that the phone and the vehicle are trying to connect with each other,” he said.
“If you talk to car companies, they’re quick to point the finger at the tech companies, and tech points the finger right back. And of course, consumers are caught in the middle.”
Mass-market brands performed better in the study for a seventh year, because they tend to have less complex technology than their luxury peers.
Hyundai had the highest number of models that performed well, and the Nissan Maxima scored the best of any single model. The auto industry as a whole improved its overall score.
Tesla, which has an unofficial score because it doesn’t permit J.D. Power to survey its owners in certain states, scored well below the industry average, though it improved from 2020.