By on June 20, 2018

2017 Genesis G90 - Image: Genesis Motors

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.

2018 Ford Super Duty, Image: Ford

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]

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51 Comments on “Korea Takes Top Three Spots in Initial Quality Study: J.D. Power...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Initial quality is such B.S., how about five years later quality?

    “No one wants the equivalent of a Lean Burn-equipped Dodge Aspen with a great infotainment interface.”

    More or less much of what’s for sale these days.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Exactly! I didn’t have any trouble with a 99 Silverado. Then the warranty was up and parts started breaking. In fact none of the cars I bought new or low mileage used had problems so soon, and than includes a 2007 Audi A3 that everyone claims in unreliable.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      You know every time these surveys come out the same complaints come rolling in. The survey is for INITIAL QUALITY. It says NOTHING about 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, or 50 years. What is so hard to understand?

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      This survey is pointless. As long as the infotainment system is easy to figure out, and works, and things don’t fall off in the first 90 days, they get a good score.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      “Initial quality is such B.S., how about five years later quality?”

      Depends what you want to measure.

      Study a car right out of the box, and you’re measuring how it was built. Study it five years later, and you are measuring how it was built, operated and maintained. Neither method is perfect, but neither is B.S. either.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Well, JDP has something called the VDS (which measures 3 yr old models).

      And for the 2018 VDS, Kia is ranked #5 (all premium brands ahead of it, if counting Buick as “premium”), and Hyundai is tied for the #6 spot.

      Toyota is 8th and Honda is 12th.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    “J.D. Power’s 2018 Initial Quality rankings, amassed from problems reported by owners over the first 90 days of vehicle ownership.”

    HOLY SH!T!!!

    A WHOLE 90 DAYS!!!!!

    This JD Powers group has really amassed some critical data, here!

    Indispensable data! A virtual treasure chest of valuable information!

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Initial Quality is a gross misrepresentation of what they survey. If you don’t happen to like the texture of the dash or you can’t figure out an infotainment setting it gives the vehicle a negative score. A salesman actually having a clue and taking the time to show a customer how things function in a vehicle can raise the ratings of a vehicle.
      For example,the Grand Caravan got top honours. How long as that been on the market? It is simple and sorted out to use but rate the thing in 5 years and it is a totally different story.
      I owned A GC and its controls were more intuitive than the Sienna I had (i.e.wiper controls and cruise control). In 5 years the GC had been in the shop 2-3 times per year. The Sienna, twice in five years.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        yup.
        and exactly why these are simply money making surveys for them.
        nothing of real value here and you need to really dig deeper to find what you are looking for.
        why don’t they break it down easily for powertrain and such, instead of a total inclusion ranking?

      • 0 avatar
        MrIcky

        Wow, you have terrible luck- the GC we used to own went to the shop for the first time for anything other than maintenance at 77k miles. So your anecdote wouldn’t mean much either.

        But- the problem with 5 years is that in most cases there’s already a new model by then. It’s valuable information for the used market, but how does that help you decide on a new car. You could argue that a car brand that’s generally positive after 5 years likely means the new ones are good too, but that’s not always the case. And improvements being made year over year wouldn’t get noted at all.

        Basically, as with all surveys and studies- it’s a data point. Hopefully the person buying the car looks at several before making a decision.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      The measure of initial quality should be what is physically wrong with the vehicle that is found in the first days to a week of ownership as in “found broken at delivery”. A couple examples would be the front drivers-side wheel bearing without being greased at the factory on my brand new ’80 VW Vanagon (was howling by the time I got it home), or the non-functioning water temperature gauge on my brand new ’85 Chevy Astro Van where the wire connector for the sender was left disconnected at the factory and dangling next to the exhaust manifold – I fixed this one myself when I first brought it home with a “click”. This to me is “Initial Quality” as in everything works as advertised out the door. Items like trim or handles shaking/breaking off, transmission slipping/hunting, windows not working, entertainment system issues, et al after a few hundred or thousand miles or first 12 months of ownership should be “Subsequent Quality” issues. Issues such “the navi system doesn’t work like my neighbors Lexus”, or, “isn’t intuitive”,etc. are bogus. If it works as advertised and designed, it’s not a quality failure.

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      When I bought my Merkur XR4Ti, by the end of 90 days my new car had already been in the shop for warranty work seven times. And not for piddly things, for issues like WILL NOT START. (Several reasons were e-v-e-n-t-u–a-l-l-y found, like rust inside the starter motor and a fuel shutoff switch that shut off every time the ignition was turned off.)
      So I would say that initial quality counts for something.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      You’re just pissed at all the Fords listed, because it doesn’t fit your narrative that all Ford products are garbage. If Ford quality and reliability was as bad as you claim, there would be a lot more evidence to present, you know, that isn’t made up off the top of your alcohol-riddled balding head.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      That means they are assembled properly but the engineering test is years down the road.

  • avatar
    deanst

    The JD Power intitial quality survey gets my award for most useless survey in all industries, including automotive.

  • avatar
    volvo

    I can’t disagree that 90 days is an inadequate metric of reliability but certainly has a relationship to build quality.

    In my anecdotal experience recent buyers of Korean autos remain pretty happy 3-5 years out. They feel they got a great price/value for the vehicle. We are lucky in the US that we have such a broad selection of vehicles designed around the world to choose from.

    Also I am not surprised by the finding. The shifting quality landscape brings to mind an older aphorism

    “work boots to work boots in 3 generations”

    Nations, organizations and families rise and fall as they get comfortable and complacent in their success. This can happen over a relatively short time. I don’t think it can be avoided. What is the purpose of sacrifice and hard work if not to achieve comfort and with that comes complacency and a fear of losing what you have. Korea has been on the rise in manufacturing for a couple of decades.

    Since many of the competing vehicles (including Korean) are built in the southeast US with the same labor pool I guess the difference must be management’s and labor’s commitment to quality in design, parts and build. Perhaps legacy costs and legacy labor force expectations play a part in this.

    • 0 avatar
      bking12762

      Volvo-Good post.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Agreed on all points, Volvo. I don’t see why so many of the B&B consider getting things right the first time to be ‘useless information’. Once upon a time, some or other car company used to brag about ‘sweating the details’. Looks like the Koreans are actually doing it. And yes, design is a key factor.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        @Truckducken, not sure the B&B actually believe that.

        Probably more a case of being triggered by the phrase “JD Power” into spewing cliches. It has that effect in TTAC circles. So does “Volkswagen reliability”, “panther love” and “Trump”.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      And why Toyota is below industry average for the first 90 days.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      If intuitiveness of a telematics/infotainment system stinks (or is laggy/buggy), that’s an increasing problem as autos are more and more becoming mobilility tech devices.

      And ergonomics is an underrated/underappreciated – getting from point A to point B in relative comfort is better than traveling in discomfort.

  • avatar
    arach

    I think this really measures “Perceived vs actual”

    and I think its a GREAT study.

    Winners in my opinion each years are “Vehicles that are much better than their reputation”.

    Hyundai/Kia are fitting. Buyers think, “ehh its a kia” but in practice they aren’t bad cars. Therefore they have few complaints relative to their expectations.

    What this doesn’t do- and I don’t think its intended to do- is actually evaluate true build quality or long term reliability. Does anyone claim it to be this?

    So the reason I like it is it identifies which brands and cars really are better than people think they likely are (Kia and Hyundai’s aren’t piles of crap like most people think) while also identifying which cars are really disappointments relative to expectations (Take the Dodge Journey… I know people think Dodge makes quality cars, so they choose the Journey only to be disappointed).

    I believe this is INVALUABLE information, not that its actually quality, but that it measures how these brands and cars stack up to the expectations about the brands.

    In fact I bet there is a correlation between your initial quality score and relative 10 year vehicle residual prices! (IE I bet Hyundai/Kia/Genesis residuals will RISE over the next 10 years while things like the journey will FALL)

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “I think this really measures “Perceived vs actual””

      It’s an interesting idea but I don’t think you can prove that suspicion.

      And if you are correct, that makes the survey essentially worthless because it is then infinitely malleable according to stereotype. e.g., Altima owners are thrilled anyone would approve them for a loan at all and therefore ignore problems; Genesis buyers paid so much less for a luxury car that they overlook quality issues; 4Runner buyers are so enamored with the nameplate history they don’t care that the hood wobbles in cross-winds; Norm and Pete Gazis hacked the JD Power mainframe and changed survey results on the Envision.

      Some results might reflect the actual problem rate, some will be warped according to consumer expectation. You’ll never be able to pull the two apart, and that would make this survey the opposite of great and invaluable.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        There are those that will argue that an owner of a premier luxury brand will give it better ratings since there is a general expectation of quirkiness aka character. That same quirkiness in a plebeian model would be seen as a poor design.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      So Honda owners like thronmark feel like they got raked over the coals when they are watching the evening news and see a H/K advertised $100/month less?

  • avatar

    The Korean surpassed Detroit in quality about five years ago. Instead of cancelling carlines and resurrecting old buildings they actually go about the business of producing world class vehicles.

    Remember, the Chevrolet Bolt was almost entirely engineered and designed in Korean by Daewoo. If you can’t beat them join them.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    “The latest CNN exit poll has you ahead by 18 points, Madame President!” – Bubba Clinton, 8 November, 2016…probably a little less useful than J.D. Power.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Every year we have this conversation. I’m sure 90 day IQS correlates perfectly with long-term durability and cost of ownership and that’s why the CVT Altima and Buick Envision receive top marks.

    The apparent spread in the data isn’t impressive. 68 problems per 100 for the top brand vs. 93 per 100 industry wide.

    Question about methodology: Would a new 911 owner would criticize the car even if it self-immolated in the garage?

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Yeah, yeah, this is “just” the initial quality study and let’s see what they’re like after 5 years….

    Well, Hyundai/Kia also do well in the JD power dependability study, and they do well in CR’s reliability study. CarMD says Hyundai is the most reliable brand. They also topped Germany’s auto bild quality report.

    Taken all together, maybe they make decent cars now?

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Sorry, but the Pony I owned 30 years ago sucked, so I have to assume Korean cars will always suck.

      (sarcasm)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @nels0300 – you raise a valid point. Is there corroborating data? If one finds consensus among similar studies then the odds are the results are accurate.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I know from personal experience- which is about useless- that my hyundai is way better than the cadillac, ford, bmw I’ve owned. I was convinced by the research that shows their quality has improved, impressed by personal inspection, and now impressed with personal ownership.

      I have a 2015 Hyundai, and its the longest I’ve ever owned a car… I’m still pleased.

      But I’m sure someone says ANY car is high quality, but anecdotal evidence supported by multiple research studies does start to create a new perspective of the brand, and I think its time for people to start accepting it.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      For the past decade, Hyundai and Kia have topped Auto Bild’s Quality Report 4 times (Hyundai 3 times and Kia once).

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Mahk sums it up perfectly: https://youtu.be/zSBsq6HBBzw

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    My first Hyundai was 2004 XG350. Since then I have purchased 8 cars from them.
    None had to go in for warranty work. I currently own a 2016 Genesis G80..what a fantastic automobile.

    • 0 avatar
      Dilrod

      We had a very used 2002 XG350, lots of salt belt rust but the interior was immaculate. Turned me on to luxury after driving an Aveo for 4 years.

      Sold it with 245k and a strange rumble upon acceleration, but otherwise nice to drive. Hyundai really raised their game with that car.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      This reminds me of when CR did a study and found that emachines had the lowest failure rate among all new computers.

      The reason? because they were budget computers sold by walmart, and walmart would hammer emachines for returns.

      So emachines did what any good bean counter would do and discovered if they made higher quality computers, failure rates declined. If failure rates declined, they made more money.

      I feel like the same could be happening with hyundai. They are becoming high quality BECAUSE of the long warranty. When they have to warranty the car for 10 years, the bean counters calculate that it IS worth making a quality car because it decreases repair costs. Decreasing costs, increases the bottom line.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Sub-600: From what Fake News site did you imagine that pile of??? Certainly, poll averages (not just one cherry-picked example) of ALL of the respectable, established polls as of Nov. 7, 2016 said Clinton up by about +3% of the vote – and she won that by over +2%. Yes, we understand that he did win the electoral college, with his 2nd-place popular vote.
    Back to the article’s topic; JDPower is a respected firm, so it’s no surprise that fans of makers with poor scores would denigrate it. It’s also true that few vehicles today are so poorly made that drivers are stranded (unlike ’70s Fiats and MGs).

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Fred, I feel for you!

    I remember it because, GM made a huge deal of the 99 Silverado ranked best. The GMC came in 3rd.

    Same truck, other than fenders and hoods. EXACT SAME CHASSIS AND ENGINES.

    How could the GMC be THIRD, if it’s the same? (We’ll ignore the fact that it is a little more expensive).

    The POWER of JD POWER it their ability to shamelessly self-promote themselves and make money (for themselves)

    As long as the carmakers and news media buy it, it’s all good!

    Almost like our paper money….”backed by the full faith and credit of the US Govt”….only worse, lol

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Stop complaining about this. Its’ a way to make money for JD, what’s more American than that?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “You might say Hyundai (Motor Group) excelled.”

    Pacific Rimshot!

  • avatar
    don1967

    Having owned more than a dozen new cars since the 1980s I can’t dismiss the predictive value of IQ data as easily as some TTAC readers. In my experience the lemons were all trouble from Day One, while the good ones were not. Pretty simple.

    As for Hyundai’s short-term vs. long-term quality, they’re not incongruous in our experience. Our Santa Fe and Veracruz were mostly trouble-free, and showed zero signs of aging by their fifth birthdays. Ditto our daughter’s Elantra, which still feels fresh as it approaches its eighth birthday.

  • avatar
    W210Driver

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      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.

  • avatar
    stuki

    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….


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