Korea Takes Top Three Spots in Initial Quality Study: J.D. Power

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

This wouldn’t have happened in the late ’80s, that’s for sure. J.D. Power’s 2018 Initial Quality rankings, amassed from problems reported by owners over the first 90 days of vehicle ownership, shows the area south of the 38th parallel as the Land of Least Annoyance.

The fresh-faced, fledgling Genesis brand took the top spot in this year’s rankings with 68 problems reported per 100 vehicles, followed by Kia in second place (72 problems) and Hyundai in third (74 problems). You might say Hyundai (Motor Group) excelled.

Porsche and Ford rounded out the top five brands in the 2018 study, with 79 and 81 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively. In terms of overall year-over-year improvement, Mazda recorded the greatest rise up the initial quality chart, with 25 fewer problems per 100 vehicles.

Cadillac, Infiniti, and Mitsubishi also earn mentions for overall brand improvement. In a sign that automakers aren’t taking consumers for granted, this year’s initial quality average was the highest ever recorded by J.D. Power. The industry average of 93 problems per 100 vehicles was down from last year’s 97 problems.

Of course, initial quality isn’t identical for all models in a brand’s lineup. Of all vehicles studied, the Porsche 911 recorded the lowest level of customer annoyance, with 48 problems per 100 vehicles.

In terms of vehicle segments, the aging Nissan Frontier took the top spot in the midsize pickup category, while the Chevrolet Silverado and Silverado HD took home the gold in the large light-duty and heavy duty pickup segments. The latter award was shared with the Ford Super Duty line.

Dodge’s stalwart Grand Caravan swept the minivan category, and Hyundai’s Tucson cleaned up in the small SUV segment. The compact SUV field was topped by the Buick Envision, with the Kia Sorento taking the midsize field and Ford’s Expedition taking the full-size crowd. Ford’s Mustang rules the sporty car segment.

As for sedans and hatchbacks, Kia’s redesigned Rio tops the small car field, Toyota’s Corolla bests all compacts, and Nissan’s Altima and Maxima rule the midsize and large car fields. The premium small, compact, midsize, and large categories go to the Acura ILX, BMW 4 Series, Lincoln Continental, and Genesis G90. As for premium SUVs, BMW’s X1 takes the small category, Lincoln’s MKC rules the compact roost, and the BMW X6 cleans up in the midsize category.

As with J.D. Power’s dependability study, there’s sublevels of quality at play in these rankings. A vehicle with fewer powertrain problems might lose out to a model with more reported problems in that category, but fewer in the the realm of infotainment and driver assist technology. Would-be owners are encouraged to delve into the nitty-gritty when weighing which model to buy. No one wants the equivalent of a Lean Burn-equipped Dodge Aspen with a great infotainment interface.

Hardly surprising, wonky tech poses the largest problems these days, though audio/communication/navigation showed its third consecutive year of improvement, despite remaining the largest Achilles heel among new vehicles.

Driver assist technology, often an unfamiliar feature to new car buyers, is on the rise as a score-sinking category. While it’s still a minor gripe (complaints average 3.5 per 100 vehicles), it’s on the rise. J.D. Power claims this category of owner complaints rose 20 percent annually over the past three years.

[Image: Genesis Motors, Ford Motor Company]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • W210Driver W210Driver on Jun 20, 2018

    I never understood the point of the IQS. Maybe in the 1970s this was valuable in providing insight into a vehicle‘s build quality and dependability. In today’s age where cars are so good it make very little sense to me. Call me crazy, but I equally am not fond of long-term reliability surveys. There are too many factors which can affect the reliability in the long-term. The most important factor for dependability in my experience is how the vehicle was maintained. Vehicles with a poor maintenance record are more likely to cause trouble. A well-maintained vehicle should logically provide reliable service. My biggest pet peeve about long-term reliability is that too many people complain about issues which are directly related to normal wear and tear. If people weren‘t so lazy about proper (and correct) maintenance, then maybe their cars would be more dependable.

    • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Jun 20, 2018

      I've often wondered about maintenance and brand reputation, and brands "training" their buyers in the fine art of properly servicing their vehicles. For example I've often wondered about something like the Prizm/Corolla twins or the Vibe/Matrix twins. Do the Prizm and Vibe suffer from owner neglect and fall into junker status sooner because they're just domestic cheap garbage (in the eyes of their owners) while the Corolla and Matrix stay serviceable and pleasant places to be longer because Toyota has managed to instill in its buyers the importance of maintaining their cars? They were built at the same factory with similar specs, but I see more Corollas and Matrixes than their GM branded counterparts.

  • Stuki Stuki on Jun 21, 2018

    With cars like the Grand Caravan and the Ace of Base Cruze with a tranny rendering it a better car than any Bentley or Lexus, there seem to be little need for annoying the Tweeter-in-Chief by wasting money of imports....

  • John Hummer owners don't care. Like shingles.
  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!