By on February 27, 2014

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Just as J.D. Power ranks Hyundai fifth from dead last over quality issues regarding the 2011 Sonata, the automaker’s research and development president, Kwon Moon-sik, returns to the fold three months after quitting over a number of quality issues within the product line.

Automotive News and Reuters report Hyundai holds 27th overall on J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, with 169 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed. Though nothing was specified for the 2011 Sonata or the 2011 Elantra — the other car from 2011 that brought down Hyundai’s rank — the industry overall developed issues with engines and transmissions tied to advanced fuel-efficiency technologies, including turbocharging. The sedan’s issues are magnified due to its groundbreaking design and said technologies, shaking up the otherwise conservative midsize sedan segment on its way to becoming Hyundai’s top-selling vehicle.

Meanwhile, Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo has rehired R&D president Kwon Moon-sik to help right the ship as the next generation Sonata prepares to make its debut in South Korea next month, as the automaker said in a statement:

Given his expertise, experience and leadership skills, we reinstated president Kwon to enhance quality and R&D capability from scratch.

Hyundai also said they expect their dependability ratings to improve next year when the 2012 models are evaluated, though it was “very disappointed” the results of this year’s study, and is “examining every component of the score to determine root-cause solutions” for improving their product line and services.

Kwon, along with two other R&D executives, quit three months earlier over quality issues — such as those affecting the 2011 models — that led to massive recalls in the United States, South Korea and other market. He was also one of the top aides to Chung’s son, Chung Eui-sun. His replacement, Kim Hae-jin, will return to heading powertrain development.

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29 Comments on “Sonata Quality Issues Drag Down Hyundai, R&D President Returns...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Not really surprised at the ‘growing pains” of becoming one of the first mass market midsizers with direct injection, as well as a turbocharger on some models of the Sonata. I suspect that some Hyundai buyers aren’t diligent enough on oil changes for the turbo motor (just a suspicion). We’ll see how this plays out as the cars age and the turbos coke up with 15k mile Jiffy Lube oil changes.

    Test driving a 2011 Sonata and looking under the hood, holy cow that DI motor vibrates and rattles like an old diesel at idle. The manual also suggests fuel system cleaner being run through every 7.5k miles unless “Top Tier” fuel is used. These two factors convinced my gf and I that a Camry would be the right car for her. Didn’t help that the local Hyundai dealer was some slick hair greaseball that tacked on a $400 environmental protection package that consisted of some BS paint protection and nitrogen in the tires.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Despite that DI and 200-hp rating, the Sonata is no quicker, no more efficient, and no more refined than your Camry powered by the proven port-injected 2.5. Mainstream family sedans aren’t worth reliability risks, so I know which one I would buy.

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      I ride almost daily in a 2012 Optima with the Turbo GDI engine (over 50k trouble-free miles), and it’s silk smooth. I’m guessing that either Hyundai uses inferior engine mounts to Kia (highly unlikely), or the car you drove has serious problems (more likely).

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Let me clarify: no vibrations in the cabin, but when you look under the hood at the engine it’s throbbing around on its massive engine mounts. To me it looks like a really low calibrated idle speed for fuel savings. The clatter is inherent to GDI engines, but seemed particularly pronounced to me. I experienced a similar thing in a GDI Kia Soul, except here the engine mounts weren’t up to the task, the car shook when idling in drive with the brake applied.

        I’d sort of equate this in old motorcycle terms to an old parallel twin Norton that shook like hell, with trick ‘Isolastic’ engine mounts as the engineering solution to prevent vibrations from reaching the rider, rather than actually balancing the engine. As the mounts inevitably wore out, the vibrations were transferred to the rider.

    • 0 avatar
      57fairlane

      I own a 2011 Sonata and am disappointed in how they missed the basics. The driver’s seat is loose and the cushion lumpy at 21,000 miles. There is a persistent alignment issue and wind noise at highway speed. Resale value is sub-par. Hyundai wants to run with Honda and Toyota. They need to up their game. You only get one shot with consumers these days.

      • 0 avatar
        mvlbr

        If resale value was your goal you should have bought the Camry or the Accord.

        • 0 avatar
          Train

          As a matter of fact, industry expert ALG shows Sonata residuals ahead of Camry and just behind Mazda6 and Accord for a third place in this competitive segment. Pretty strong statement for the oldest model in the segment. Surprising to many is how well Hyundai does across the residual board.

      • 0 avatar
        jgcaulder

        I own a 2011 Sonata Turbo, and I’ve had the same lingering alignment issue, as well as a leaking oil pan that had already been repaired by the dealer. It’s leaking again. Good thing for the warranty, but I’m not sure if I will keep it beyond 100K miles. It’s fun to driver due to it’s quick and nimble nature for it’s size.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    This is nearly worthless without knowing what components are having problems in the survey. JD Power isn’t disclosing it, either: “Sargent declined to identify the main issues that drove the Sonata complaints.” Honestly, what good is this survey then?

    At least Consumer Reports publishes reliability ratings for each component area so you know if it is something serious like engine/transmission problems or something minor like body/trim.

    FWIW, True Delta also shows a drop in Sonata & Elantra reliability for 2011, with about 1/4-1/3 of the issues engine/transmission related.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Hyundai have already got this problem in their rear view mirror. If you look at True Delta data for 2012, 2013 Sonata cars, the issues are well past and reliability is significantly higher than average again.

    Oddly enough, I had a 2011 Sonata Hybrid – and quite literally had one squeak in the right front seat as my only problem in 45,000 miles of driving.

    I now have a 2013 Sonata Hybrid instead and it is a far better car with much better drivability. I’ve had other hybrids (i.e. Prius’s) in the past and the Sonata was more roomy and faster, but now it is also “finished” and correct instead of a kind of science experiment (which is now how I’d classify the ’11).

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    In related news, R&D president Kwon Moon-sik comes back after a three month stint in a North Korean “rehabilitation” center.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Wife has a 13 Sonata that she got over my objection. Almost two years and 30k miles has been great. Only problem so far was a clogged AC drain that made passenger floor wet. Contrast to our 2010 Honda Odyssey that needed two new axles, power steering pump, drank oil and had a few other problems in 30k miles. Hyundai has a 5/60 bumper to bumper and 10/100 powertrain so it made me comfortable with wife getting it. The Top tier gas it requires isn’t high octane, but rather from a named gas station like Exxon or 76 ect. From reading the Sontata forums the cars are about bullet proof. The exception was a wandering steering issue that the earlier ones had that I suspect formed the majority of complaints. Hyundai did a flash update on the steering that fixed it. The interior was much nicer than a Camry or Accord at that time with items like bluetooth and satellite radio standard. Couldn’t get Bluetooth on an Accord till the higher models. Fuel economy isn’t as great as expected. Wife averages 22/23 mpg on daily commute. Got 31 on a 1000 mile trip with it at 80 MPH. I think the cars biggest let down is in suspension tuning. I never noticed as I DD a Jeep, but I rented a Ford Focus and then drove the Sonata over the same roads and then I realized where Hyundia saved money and/or didn’t have expertise.

    • 0 avatar
      jgcaulder

      The extreme pulling issue these had early on were isolated to the SE models with 18″ wheels. Something about the left front strut tower was out of whack. There are a few youtube videos that show it. My 2011 SE 2.0T had the same issue. They ended up replacing the strut and reconfiguring the strut tower. The only issue I have now is the electric steering is very sensitive to any change in the road, whether it be left or right. It doesn’t want to track straight.

      • 0 avatar
        cgjeep

        Ours had the sensitivity problem, they fixed it with a reflash. Evidently there are 3 steering sensitivity settings. Newer Sonatas let you change it through a menu in the car. Older ones only at dealer, they don’t charge. Change it to sport setting. Makes it so much better. Older Sonatas have the settings, weird that they chose the worst one as standard.

  • avatar
    gasser

    The suspension tuning has been a constant complaint in Genesis sedan reviews both from experts and customers. This issue kept me from switching from Lexus because back seat nausea is not part of my definition of luxury. I hope the suspension shortcomings are addressed in the 2015 redesign.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Since the launch, Hyundai has retuned the suspension and has gotten rid of the crappy OEM Dunlops so even on the outgoing model, the suspension is pretty compliant (as long as you don’t opt for the R-Spec).

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    All these new technologies for the sake of a few more MPG’s is not worth the trouble down the road, ditto for those high compression Mazda engines, I’ll stick with the low tech stuff that Honda and Toyota still put out, thanks anyway.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Definitely not a good showing by Hyundai, but not unexpected considering 1st year models for the Sonata and Elantra equipped with things like GDI and turbo.

    Ford will probably see a similar hit 3 years after the launch of the current Fusion and Escape.

    What will be interesting is to see how the Japanese fare (well, Toyota and Honda) in ensuing years as they are adding GDI and turbo power along with things such as CVTs.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      Toyotas had Direct injection on practically the entire Lexus lineup for years (and longer than that in Japan) and yet, they are still number 1. Toyota’s D4-S direct injection is one of the best in the world and Toyota has had CVTs on hybrids and in Japan for a long time as well.

      Nice try, Agnes.

  • avatar
    Liger

    I owned a 2012 sonata Se 2.0 for 25,000 miles. The car was very reliable and built to a much higher standard than my 2013 escape titanium 4wd. Things like paint quality, interior fit and finish and overall feeling of Asian quality were soooo much better in the sonata. Yet the sonata never steered right down the road, it would always wander to the left or right on any road and any weather condition. After it got $6000.00 in hail damage I traded it in on the escape (resale was good). I hated the sonata over steering issues the dealer could never fix. I love my escape, and even with 4wd I get similar mpg.

  • avatar
    50fordbob

    We have a 2013 Sonata and the steering is fine, it goes straight down the road and rides well. The 2.4 engine and 6 speed trans work so well together, quick downshifts and good power. The GLS with thicker tires rides better than the more expensive models with the skinny tires. I have never had a “foreign” car before. We love this car and will likely get another one when the lease is up.


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